Mar 142012
 

By Linda Kor —

The Arizona Auditor General’s Office recently unveiled a report on how Arizona school districts utilized their funding for fiscal year 2011, with the figures indicating that school districts in the state are spending less overall.

Between fiscal years 2001 and 2009, Arizona’s total operational spending per pupil increased 47 percent before decreasing five percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2011. Despite this overall increase, per pupil spending in Arizona continues to trail the national average both in total and in the classroom, with the classroom dollar percentage reaching a record low 54.7 percent in fiscal year 2011, compared to a national average of 60.9 percent.

One factor that is keeping classroom spending in Arizona below the national average is the number of students. Arizona classrooms have a higher student to teacher ratio than the national average. That figure has increased from 17.1 students per teacher to 18.1 in 2011, while the national average is 15.3 students per teacher.

The report shows that each year since fiscal year 2004, districts have decreased the percentage of their resources they allocated to the classroom for costs that include salaries and benefits for teachers, aides and coaches. It also covers supplies such as pencils and paper. Furthermore, this shift in spending out of the classroom accelerated in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

The report indicates that on average, Arizona school districts spent $4,098 in classroom dollars per student in fiscal year 2011, or 54.7 percent of their funding. Of the remainder, 9.7 percent was spent on administration, 12.4 percent on plant operations, five percent on food service, 4.7 percent on transportation, 7.7 percent on student support and 5.8 percent on instruction support.

In comparison, the Holbrook School District spent $5,291 in classroom dollars per student in fiscal year 2011, or 54.8 percent of its funding. Spending for the past five years shows total spending per pupil increased by nine percent. Spending in the classroom varied year to year, but decreased slightly. Spending on administration decreased significantly, and spending on transportation and student support increased. Spending on other non-classroom areas remained fairly stable.

The Winslow School District spent $3,995 in classroom dollars per student in fiscal year 2011, or 52.5 percent of its funding. Spending for the past five years shows total spending per pupil increased by 11 percent. Spending in the classroom varied year to year, decreasing significantly overall from 55.5 percent to 52.5 percent. Spending on transportation and food service increased, while spending on all other non-classroom areas remained fairly stable.

The Joseph City School District spent $5,421 in classroom dollars per student in fiscal year 2011, or 48.1 percent of its funding. Spending for the past five years shows total spending per pupil increased by nine percent. Spending in the classroom decreased significantly from 54 percent to 48.1 percent. Overall, spending on administration, plant operations, food service, and student support increased, while spending on other non-classroom areas varied from year to year.

The Snowflake School District spent $3,734 in classroom dollars per student in fiscal year 2011, or 59 percent of its funding. Total spending per pupil increased by one percent. Spending in the classroom remained fairly stable, but increased overall from 58 percent to 59 percent. Spending on administration increased and spending on plant operations decreased significantly. Spending on other non-classroom areas remained fairly stable.

It’s not a simple comparison when viewing the larger facilities of the Snowflake district with six schools and an enrollment of 2,492 students compared to the Joseph City district with two schools and an enrollment of 473 students, or the broad demographics of both the Holbrook and Winslow districts. Each district has different needs and funds are allocated to those requiring the most attention. One common factor for each district throughout the state is that funding is likely to continue to decrease, meaning fewer dollars in the classroom.

 

Fiscal Year 2011 Area School District Funding Allocations

Districts Classroom Dollars Administration Plant Operations Food Service Transportation Student Support Instruction Support
National Average 54.7% 9.7 12.4 5.0 4.7 7.7 5.8
Holbrook 54.8% 7.5 12.8 4.0 6.4 9.4 5.1
Winslow 52.5% 9.4 14.6 4.7 4.6 3.5 10.7
Joseph City 48.1% 13.5 16.3 3.7 5.7 9.0 3.7
Snowflake 59.0% 9.8 11.1 4.3 6.2 8.0 1.6