By Tammy Gray
Like many school districts across the state, those in Holbrook and Joseph City have reduced classroom funding and shifted some of that money to other priorities, such as student support and transportation. Overall, Arizona lags behind most of the rest of the nation in classroom instruction funding. A report by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General reveals how school districts across the state are spending their money.
The Holbrook Unified School District spent less money in the classroom, and more on transportation and student support over the last five years, according to the report.
“Total spending per pupil decreased by four percent,” the report notes. “Spending in the classroom decreased from 57 to 53.2 percent. Spending on transportation and student support increased substantially. Overall, spending on plant operations increased slightly, while spending on administration decreased. Spending on other non-classroom areas remained fairly stable.”
The Holbrook district spent 53.2 percent of its budget on classroom instruction; 12.5 percent on plant operations, which includes utilities and building repair and maintenance; 9.5 percent on student support; 8.4 percent on administration; 7.6 percent on transportation; 4.7 percent on instruction support; and 4.1 percent on food service.
Even with the increase in transportation spending, Holbrook schools spent less on transportation and more on administration, plant operations and food service compared to state averages. According to the report, the district spent $1.54 per mile or $835 per rider, compared to the statewide average of $3.55 per mile and $1,015 per rider. The district spent $811 per student in administration costs. The statewide average was $746 per student. Plant operations totaled $6.13 per square foot, compared to $6.03 across the state. Food service costs came in at $2.78 per meal, compared to $2.58 statewide.
The district scored well in student and teacher measures. Holbrook had an overall graduation rate of 83 percent, compared to the statewide average of 77 percent. The number of students per teacher was 14.5, as opposed to the state average of 18.3, and the district’s average years of teacher experience is 11.5, while the statewide average is 10.9.
Holbrook’s financial stress level is rated as low. The report notes that the district has seen an increase in enrollment, has not overspent its budget and has more than three years of capital reserves.
Joseph City Unified School District spending decreased in the classroom, and increased for student support and food service over the last five years.
The report states, “Total spending per pupil increased by seven percent. Spending in the classroom decreased from 49.4 to 46.9 percent. Overall, spending on student support increased substantially and spending on food service increased. Spending on administration and transportation decreased, while spending on other non-classroom areas varied year to year.”
In addition to spending an average of 46.9 percent of the budget on classroom instruction, the district spent 18 percent on plant operations, or utilities and building upkeep; 11.8 percent on administration; 9.7 percent on student support; 5.9 percent on transportation; 3.9 percent on food services; and 3.8 percent on instruction support.
Compared to statewide averages, Joseph City spent less on plant operations and transportation, but more on administration and food service than other schools across the state. The district spent an average of $4.28 per square foot for plant operations, compared to the state average of $6.03, and $1.71 per mile or $684 per rider for transportation, as opposed to the state averages of $3.55 per mile and $1,105 per student. Administration costs averaged $1,375 per pupil compared to a state average of $746, however, the report rates the expenditure as generally low due to the small size of the district. School districts of a similar size across the state spend an average of $1,571 per student for administration. Joseph City food service costs averaged $4.63 per student. The statewide average is $2.58 per student, while districts of a similar size averaged $3.28 per student.
Joseph City had an outstanding graduation rate at 97 percent. The statewide average is 77 percent. The district averages 13.1 students per teacher, compared to an average of 18.3 across the state. Teachers in Joseph City have an average of 14.9 years of experience, while the statewide average is 10.9 years.
The report rates the district’s financial stress as low to moderate. The district has not overspent its budget and has a steady operating reserve, but has less than three years of capital reserve and experienced a moderate decrease in enrollment.
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By Tammy Gray