PHOENIX — Despite receiving significantly fewer dollars in the 2009-2010 school year through the Classroom Site Fund – all of which is earmarked for teacher salaries, performance pay and providing teachers for new programs – Arizona schools are spending only slightly less in the classroom. A report released by the Arizona Auditor General shows that Arizona school districts received 4 percent fewer dollars in FY2010, yet spending on classroom instruction fell only 1 percent from prior year and 1.4 percent from FY2008. The reduction in funding was especially difficult for districts because revenue from the Classroom Site Fund goes directly to classroom instruction costs.
In two years, CSF revenues dropped $224.6 million, or 48.8 percent, from $459.9 million in FY2008 (2007-2008 school year) to $235.3 million in FY2010 (2009-2010 school year). The Classroom Site Fund is made up of a 0.6-cent per dollar sales tax that voters approved in 2000 under Prop. 301 as well as investment revenue from state trust lands, according to Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
“The Classroom Site Fund received a double whammy with the economic downturn, with reduced sales tax revenue statewide and a decrease in investment income from state trust lands,” Essigs said. “The result is a nearly $300 per student reduction in revenue for school districts.”
The Auditor General’s report notes that spending per pupil is nearly $2,500 or 24 percent less than the 2008 national average, when the most recent national data was available. Arizona’s average percentage of available operating dollars spent on classroom instruction for FY2010 was 55.9 percent, which continues to lag the national average of 60.8 percent (FY2008).
The report also cites that Arizona schools spent significantly less than the national average on administrative costs; Arizona school districts spent 9.5 percent on administration costs in FY2010 vs. the 10.8 percent national average recorded in FY2008. The report cited that Arizona districts spent less on administration because they “paid administrators and support staff less and/or employed fewer of them.”
Other costs cited in the report in the non-classroom category that have direct impact on student learning are:
• Plant Operations – 12 percent
Telephone service, electricity/gas, water, waste/garbage disposal, grounds keeping and security required to keep schools operational and safe. 25 percent of plant operation costs were for energy, primarily electricity.
• Food Service – 4.8 percent
Cafeteria food and cafeteria employees to provide students breakfast and lunch. 63 percent of district food service programs generated enough revenues to cover operating expenses, up from 50 percent five years ago.
• Transportation – 4.5 percent
School buses, gas, drivers and maintenance to get students to and from school and school activities
• Student Support – 7.6 percent
Nurses, counselors, speech therapists, audiologists, attendance clerks and English Language Learner teachers to ensure that students learn to their fullest potential. Many student support services are directed at student populations with economic disadvantages, such as living at or below the poverty level, and at students with special needs. Higher student support service costs may be related to Arizona’s higher poverty rate of 21 percent vs. the national average of 18 percent.
• Instruction Support – 5.7 percent
Librarians, special education directors, media specialists, instruction-related IT staff, teacher trainers and the systematic planning of what is taught and learned in school to ensure that students have access to high-quality instruction. Two-thirds of this spending was for the improvement of instruction, such as developing instructional materials and curriculum, and training instructional staff.
The Arizona School Boards Association is a non-profit organization representing more than 240 Arizona public school governing boards. ASBA is dedicated to quality leadership and advocacy for children in public schools through promoting community volunteer governance of public education and continuous improvement of student success by providing leadership and assistance to public school governing boards.
Click here to see the Auditor General’s Report.