June Fail

A recent report from the US Census Bureau ranks Arizona as 48th in educational spending. The study shows per pupil spending in Arizona at $7,848. That compares with $10,615 nationwide and puts the state ahead of only Idaho and Utah.

In one article legislators explain that budget cuts have had to be made.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the state had to cut education funding in prior years to balance the budget.

He said some of that was restored, with an additional $177 million put into public schools this year. That includes $40 million given to schools to help ensure that children know how to read by the end of third grade.

“But it’s also a mistake to judge education by per student funding,” said Kavanagh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

“If per pupil funding were the most important factor, parents would be rushing to send their children to school in Newark, N.J. and Washington, D.C.,” he said. “They have the highest per pupil funding in the nation. But they also have the worst performance.”

It may be true that Newark and DC are poor performing districts but when you compare the performance statistics of the state of Arizona to the state of New Jersey a different picture is painted.  On average New Jersey is currently spending $ 16,841 per pupil and in 2011 scored above the national average in the areas of mathematics, reading and science according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  Arizona, however, is scoring below the national average for all three areas.

State School Superintendent John Huppenthal said the Rand Corp., a conservative think tank, does its own analysis of those NAEP scores, one he said shows Arizona above the national average.

“Contrary to popular perception, our education system is slightly above the national average,” he said. “When you have our cost equation, it means we run a much, much more cost-effective school system than any other state in the nation.”

I can’t help but wonder if the Arizona school system is so cost-effective how much more could it do with more funding?

I’m not suggesting that Arizona should increase its per pupil spending to New Jersey’s level, far from it. Especially since most of the funds that New Jersey uses for its school districts are directly from property taxes, it would be an added burden on all Arizona residents. In fact, the reason I moved from NJ to AZ was because I couldn’t afford to live there anymore.

I am far more concerned about the attitude of legislative and school officials that everything is fine and there’s no need to throw money at education. Education is an investment in all our futures and even though per pupil spending may not be the only factor in school performance it certainly is a factor.

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