By Linda Bentley | october 21, 2015

Maricopa County GOP opposes all 28 bond and override measures

After nine years of decline, Arizona public school district classroom spending remained at 53.8 for the second year in a row
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PHOENIX – On Oct. 7 the Republican Party of Maricopa County (MCGOP) Executive Guidance Council voted unanimously in opposition to all 28 countywide school district bond and override initiatives.

MCGOP Chairman Tyler Bowyer stated, “Public school systems in Maricopa County and across the state must live within their means, just as the hard working Arizonans that comprise their respective tax bases have had to do.”

Bowyer went on to say, “It is unacceptable that these public school districts continue to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on bloated administrator salaries, pet projects and unnecessary infrastructure, while simultaneously complaining they are strapped for cash.”

MCGOP Communications Director Jake Hoffman issued a statement saying, “The L-12 public school system in Arizona has demonstrated a decades-long unwillingness to prioritize the needs of students and teachers first. To empower the very administrators that have repeatedly failed to focus on the needs of students with even more hard-earned tax dollars is fiscally irresponsible and bad for Arizona children and taxpayers.”

Hoffman concluded by saying the MCGOP opposes these attempts to increase taxes.

The Arizona Republican Assembly (AzRA), which calls itself “conservative Republicans, working within the Party structure from the ground up to bring conservative values back to the GOP,” has also weighed in on the issue.

On Saturday, Oct. 24 AzRA will be holding an Education Summit at 9 a.m. at the Devonshire Community Center, 2802 E. Devonshire Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85016.

The Summit will be a fast-paced, action-packed program covering a discussion on the best use of the state trust lands, a presentation of the waste and diversion of taxpayer dollars throughout the K-12 district schools, a presentation on Common Core, education savings accounts, curriculum and looking forward to the 2016 legislation session.

Those concerned about their school district budget or override and bond ballot measures currently underway, can contact AzRA ( for a presentation on school financing.

AzRA has done its homework on school financing and most people will be surprised when they learn the facts about why their tax dollars aren’t making it to the classroom, what school administrators won’t tell them and where to look to find waste in their schools.

The Arizona Auditor General bases its definition of classroom dollars on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics for “instruction.”

The classroom dollar percentage is determined by taking the amount spent for classroom purposes and dividing it by the total amount spent for day to day operations, excluding monies spent for debt repayment, capital outlay and programs outside the scope of preschool through grade 12 education.

Classroom dollars include:
Classroom personnel – salaries and benefits for teachers, teachers’ aides, substitute teachers, graders and guest lecturers.
General instructional supplies – paper, pencils, crayons, etc.
Instructional aids – textbooks, workbooks, software, films, etc.
Activities – field trips, athletics, and co-curricular activities, such as choir and band.
Tuition – paid to out-of-state and private institutions.

The Arizona Auditor General (AAG) issued a special study to the Arizona Legislature in February: “Arizona School District Spending (Classroom Dollars) Fiscal Year 2014,” which reflected, after nine years of decline, Arizona public school district classroom spending remained at 53.8 for the second year in a row.

This is the lowest percentage in the 14 years since the AAG has been monitoring district spending.

In fiscal year 2001, Arizona districts spent 57.7 percent of available operating dollars on instruction.

In 2002, districts began receiving Classroom Site Fund (CSF) monies, which were intended to increase classroom spending.

There was a bump to 58.6 percent during fiscal years 2003 and 2004.

However, as the AAG report notes, “[D]espite an overall increase in per pupil spending since that time, the percentage spent on instruction decreased every year between fiscal years 2004 and 2013, and remained flat in fiscal year 2014.”

During the same period of time, the percentages spent on administration, plant operations, food service, transportation, student support and instruction support have all increased.

Since fiscal year 2009, the number of students attending Arizona school districts has decreased by about 2.6 percent while the number of teachers has decreased by 10.4 percent.

As a result, the state’s average class size has increased.

As the AAG report also pointed out, efficient and inefficient districts come in all sizes, types and locations.

The report provided the following cost variance examples:

A very large, urban unified district spent $530 per pupil for administration while another spent $855 per pupil.

A medium-sized, rural, unified district spent $3 per square foot for plant operations while another spent $9.68 per square foot.

A medium-sized, rural, unified school district spent $2.30 per meal while another spent $4.33 per meal.

Two medium-large-sized, urban, elementary school districts drove a similar number of miles per rider; one district spent $2.68 per mile while the other spent $6.85 per mile.

Despite Arizona’s school-district-funding formula providing similar districts with a similar amount of basic funding, there is still a wide range in total per pupil spending.

In 2014 per pupil spending in Arizona ranged from $5,701 to $22,449, with the 30 highest-spending districts spending $12,310 per pupil, 89 percent more than the $6,524 spent per pupil by the 30 lowest-spending districts.

The high-spending districts were able to spend more because they received more monies, primarily from federal impact aid, federal grants and transportation funding.

Federal impact aid is generally provided to districts impacted by tax-exempt federal lands while federal grants are often provided to districts with higher poverty rates.

Transportation funding is provided based on a formula that uses the number of miles traveled to transport students.

In fiscal year 2014 Arizona school districts spent 7.1 percent less of its available resources on classroom instruction than the national average of 60.9 percent.

However the report also notes Arizona spent 10 percent, slightly less than the national average of 10.9 percent on administration and the higher percentage of non-instructional spending was due to higher spending on plant operations and student support services for students who live in poverty.

Despite a $114 increase in per pupil spending in 2014 over 2007, Arizona school districts spent $246 less per pupil in classroom dollars, the only category of spending reflecting a decrease, while spending in every non-instructional category increased.

The study shows, in 2001, Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD93) spent 54.8 percent of its available dollars in the classroom, which increased over time to a high of 59.7 percent in 2005.

By 2014, the percentage of classroom spending by CCUSD93 declined to 53 percent, even below the state average.

From 2009 to 2014, CCUSD93’s cost per student for administration has risen from $656 to $710, while the average teacher’s salary has declined from $47,200 in 2010 to $45,563 in 2014.
Even though the pupil transportation cost per mile for CCUSD93 has only increased slightly from $3.30 per mile in 2009 to $3.41 in 2014, the cost per rider has increased significantly from $760 to $968 over the same period of time.

A May 14, 2015 performance audit of Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) by the AAG found although the district’s student achievement was similar to peer districts, on average, it compared less favorably in operational efficiencies.

The audit indicated SUSD had higher administrative costs, which was attributed to employing more administrative staff than peer districts.

It also stated SUSD’s transportation cost per mile was much higher than the peer districts’ average, in part, because of inefficient bus routes.

CCUSD93, which had its last performance audit in June 2012, compared favorably with peer districts in both student achievement and operational efficiencies.

However, the audit noted the district’s plant operations costs were 8 percent higher per square foot and 16 percent higher per student than peer districts’ because of higher electricity and water costs due to frequent community use of district buildings and fields, excess square footage, and the lack of an energy conservation plan.

To reduce plant operations costs, the audit recommended the district analyze the prices it charges community groups for the use of its facilities to ensure the fees better reflect the district’s costs, as required by statute.

The audit also advised the district it should ensure that only eligible employees receive Classroom Site Fund monies.

The district responded by saying it had corrected the eligibility list, by eliminating those employees not devoted to teaching more than 50 percent of the time, as clarified by the Auditor General, and would remove those ineligible employees from the eligibility list.

The entire 480-page AAG study can be found online here.

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