Education is one of the most important and politically charged issues in Arizona. Unfortunately, there are so many statistics being thrown around that it is often hard to know what is the truth. Because of this, I’ve put together a list of important facts backed up by their sources.
Point #1: K-12 school education receives more money than any other area in the state budget at 43% and is the largest single beneficiary of funding increases in the state year after year. (Footnote 1.)
Point #2: How money is spent matters more than how much is spent. Money needs to be spent effectively. Case in point…
Arizona students are doing better academically than neighboring states that spend more per student. (Footnote 2.)
-California spends $3,500 more per student than Arizona, but AZ students perform better academically on the National Assessment of Educational Progress than California students at every level.
-New Mexico spends $3,000 more per student than Arizona, but AZ students outperform their students academically at every level.
-Nevada spends $1,262 more per student than Arizona, but AZ students outperform their students academically at all levels except one.
-Arizona is home to 5 of the top 10 high schools in the nation.(Footnote 3.)
Point #3: Arizona has one of the fastest growing student populations in the nation. This will continue to be a strain on the state budget as growing states are always struggling to meet the needs of their growing population. Since schools get paid per student, the amount schools receive automatically grows each year along with substantial increases in other funding from the state and other sources.
Point #4: District Schools receive, on average, $9,529/student/year and Charter Schools receive, on average, $8,798/student/year. (Footnote 4.)
Point #5: Average Arizona teacher salary in 2016 = $46,384/year. (Footnote 5)
Point #6: School districts, through their elected school board members, decide how school money is spent, including how much goes toward teacher pay and how much goes to administration, not the state legislature.
Point #7: The percent of money school districts are deciding to put in the classroom continues to decline. Arizona school districts spent only 53.5% in the classroom during the 2016 school year. This is the lowest amount that went to the classroom since the Auditor General started tracking this number in 2001. (Footnote 5)
Point #8: Families in Arizona like the freedom to choose their own school and what is best for their child. In Maricopa County, nearly 50% of families chose a school other than the one geographically assigned to their child. (Footnote 6)
Point #9: Charter schools are becoming increasingly popular with parents. Charter School enrollment has grown 70% in the last 17 years.
Point #10: Private school choice options save the state money. If private school choice options like tuition tax credits and Empowerment Scholarship Accounts were taken away and these students were forced back into the public schools, the state would need to find hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the new public-school enrollment growth, including millions for extra buildings for this influx of new students.
1. Joint Legislative Budget Committee
2. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and US Census Bureau
3. US News and World Report
4. Joint Legislative Budget Committee, includes funding from all sources
5. Arizona Auditor General Reports
6. Arizona Charter School Association