Arizona’s Auditor General Office recently pointed out how, with each passing year, less of each education dollar gets into the classroom. This begs the question: How can school districts claim they need more money for the sake of children’s educations when they keep diverting money away from the classroom?
The Auditor General recently released a report showing that, after a long upward trend, average spending for each student in 2010 declined by 4 percent. You would think priority decision-making would dictate that the proportion of each dollar going to the classroom would rise, but it didn’t. The amount of money spent in classrooms dropped another penny from 56.9 cents to 55.9 cents of each dollar spent by taxpayers. The national average is almost 61 cents.
Even with the 2010 decline, per-pupil spending increased by 43 percent over the last decade. This is more than double the rise in inflation as measured by the consumer price index over the same period. The relatively fast increase in spending was made possible by state funding specifically intended to send more money flowing to the classroom. School districts as a whole have violated state law by allowing money to flow elsewhere.
Arizona is one state in a high-spending nation when it comes to public education. We spend more on public education than many nations that out-perform us. This, combined with the evidence from the Auditor General’s report, proves that it is not the amount of money we are spending that matters. What matters is how we spend it. We need to pay good teachers more, fire bad teachers, cut non-teaching staff and functions, and schools need to focus on the mission for which they exist – educating students.
Dr. Byron Schlomach is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity.
Goldwater Institute: Fortune Favors the Bold: Reforms for Results in K-12 Education
Arizona Auditor General: Arizona Public School Districts’ Dollars Spent in the Classroom, Fiscal Year 2010
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development: Public Spending on Education