State Capitol News
8:07 am
Mon March 3, 2014

State Education Spending for Instruction at Low Point

A new report shows fewer and fewer dollars going into educating students in public schools. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Credit publicnewservice.org

It’s no secret that overall state funding for education has dropped since the recession. But, auditor general Debra Davenport reports that the percentage of the dollars available that actually wind up in the classroom is at the lowest point in the 13 years her office has been reviewing the data. Less than 54 cents of every dollar goes to instruction. The rest is eaten up in everything from transportation and food to utilities and administration. The multiplier effect of all that is just slightly more than $4,000 per student is going into instruction now — nearly $450 less than just four years ago. Rep. John Kavanagh who chairs the House Appropriations Committee said efforts are underway to increase state aid. But, he said other action may be appropriate.

“Perhaps a mandate from the Legislature that a minimum of 57 percent of total expenditures must be spent in the classroom will cause the administrators to prioritize and wring some more money out of the other areas,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh said the fact some districts can get 60 cents out of every dollar in the classroom shows this is doable. He acknowledged, though, that districts with unusual costs for things like busing students long distances, might need a waiver.