Horne seeks $1.2 million from Ajo school district for enrolling students from Mexico

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PHOENIX -- The state Department of Education is calling on the Ajo Unified School District to return $1.2 million of state funding, saying the district illegally provided free education to Mexican students.

State schools Superintendent Tom Horne released audit findings that demonstrate the district illegally enrolled non-Arizona resident students at a total cost of nearly $1.2 million from fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

"The issue here is not citizenship or documentation, but residency," Horne stated. "In this case, 105 students were claiming to live in Arizona, when in fact they reside in Mexico."

Horne said children cross the border daily and take buses to the public schools in Ajo where they have been educated at the expense of Arizona taxpayers.

Horne said the auditors determined that students were claiming residency in uninhabitable trailers, vacant RV spaces and an abandoned motel in Lukeville.

"This practice must stop and I intend to ask that the district refund the money to the taxpayers," Horne said.

The district has 30 days to appeal the findings of the audit to the Arizona State Office of Administrative Hearings.