Maria Polletta/AZCIR

Maria Polletta/AZCIR

Maria Polletta is an investigative reporter for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, focused on covering inequities in education. Prior to joining AZCIR, she covered state government and politics for The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network, leading breaking and enterprise watchdog coverage of the Arizona Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and state Supreme Court.

Patients, advocates describe ‘pure chaos’ in state response to AHCCCS fraud

By: and - November 2, 2023

On May 16, as cameras flashed and tribal leaders looked on, Arizona’s governor and attorney general announced a statewide crackdown on behavioral health providers suspected of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program out of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Officials revealed the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) had suspended payments to more than […]

Overrepresentation of Black, Hispanic students among those suspended for missing school could violate civil rights law

By: , and - December 13, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Camron Olivas has been suspended at least five times throughout middle and high school for being late to class. While his mother cares for his toddler sister, his older brother drives him in, and they frequently arrive after the first bell. During the day, Camron said, he sometimes remains in the hallways […]

Suspending students for absences, tardies compounds learning loss

By: and - December 6, 2022

PHOENIX—Guadalupe Hernandez’s attendance problems started in kindergarten. The boy, who has two attention disorders and oppositional defiant disorder, often refused to sit still for circle time. He also experienced separation anxiety while away from his grandmother, Frances Yduarte, who raised him. He’d spend his days distracted from lessons, wishing he was home with her. Guadalupe […]

Youth access to mental health care improved under Jake’s Law, but persistent barriers hamper its reach

By: and - September 1, 2022

In March 2020, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a sweeping set of measures designed to help curb rising rates of suicide and expand access to mental health treatment for Arizona residents with and without insurance. Commonly known as Jake’s Law, the legislation was named after Jake Machovsky, a 15-year-old who died by suicide in […]

A national epicenter for Valley fever infections, Arizona gets first major state funding boost in 15 years

By: - April 12, 2022

Researchers from Arizona’s three state universities will get $3.1 million to pinpoint hotspots and infection patterns for Valley fever, providing new tools to combat the fungal disease that sickens more people in Arizona than in any other state. The three-year grant, awarded to the Valley Fever Collaborative by the Arizona Board of Regents, represents the […]

Report: Child care woes cost Arizona economy $1.8 billion a year

By: - December 7, 2021

Instability in Arizona’s child care system is costing the state an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity a year, according to a new U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation report, as gaps in care force parents to forgo professional and educational opportunities. Though access to child care proved to be “a concern for nearly every working […]

State leaders’ decade of neglect imperiled fragile child care system. The pandemic nearly made it collapse.

By: - November 4, 2021

As coronavirus cases crept up across Arizona in March 2020, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a statewide school shutdown meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. It was, at the time, the most aggressive step state leaders had taken to prevent infections. And for employees and clients at Yuma child care center Desert Trails, who’d grown […]

COVID-19 is surging in Arizona schools, but parents are left in the dark

By: and - August 31, 2021

As COVID-19 infections surge in Arizona schools, sickening thousands of students and staff and forcing thousands more into quarantine, parents — and the public at large — have been left without a comprehensive picture of where Arizona students and educators are contracting the virus.  A patchwork of outbreak and quarantine notifications from school districts has […]