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Report finds Arizona school district classroom spending decreased in 2016

(Flickr/woodleywonderworks)

PHOENIX — The amount of money that Arizona is spending in its classrooms has decreased, according to a recent report from the Office of the Arizona Auditor General.

The report found that school districts across the state only spent 53.5 percent of available classroom funding in fiscal 2016, the lowest percentage since the office began monitoring district spending in 2001.

“Arizona school districts spent about $3,300 less per pupil than the national average and allocated their resources differently, spending a lower percentage of resources on instruction and administration and a greater percentage on all other operational areas,” the report said.

Classroom spending for Arizona school districts peaked in fiscal 2004 and has declined more than five percent over the last 13 years, the report found, while spending in other areas have increased over the same period of time.

The Arizona Auditor General report looked at areas such as salaries and benefits for teachers and aides and the cost for instructional supplies.

But Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said he is skeptical of the report because it does not include the approval of Proposition 123, which will put $3.5 billion into the state’s K-12 education over the next 10 years.

“I’ve been told it doesn’t include the Prop 123 spending,” Ducey said of the report on Wednesday. “[Proposition 123] was an infusion of hundreds of millions of additional dollars.”

Arizona does not comprehensively track schools’ spending of the money from Proposition 123 and while the campaign advertised the proposition as a way to add money for teachers — and thus, classroom spending — schools are free to spend that money how they see fit.

The report concluded that while the proposition “provided districts with approximately $250 million of additional resources” in fiscal 2016, it cannot be determined “whether or how” that money was spent because it was “commingled” with other funding sources.

The report also concluded that a large portion of that additional funding from Proposition 123 was not spent in fiscal 2016 because it was not available to school districts until after the vote. The proposition was approved by voters in May 2016 and the fiscal year ended in June.

But Ducey said his new budget puts “hundreds of millions in additional spending” in education and that he wants “to see more resources in K-12 education.”

In contrast, a report from the Arizona School Boards Association found that classroom spending in state school districts has increased over the past year. This report looked at both classroom spending and student support services, such as nurses and school counselors, and resources devoted to training teachers.

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