Recently, the state has made respectable strides in moving education funding toward more effective levels. The future is optimistic if one disregards the recent rash of editorial assaults in the media by people trying to halt that momentum.
We all look forward to the next auditor general’s report on school spending to see some progress. Working with current numbers we can only compare state and national spending to 2015. That analysis puts Arizona 2.7 billion dollars below the national average, in rounded numbers.
Fake economic news may be defined as any numbers with which one disagrees. Sean McCarthy’s recent guest opinion in the June 8, 2018, Arizona Capitol Times mixes local, state and federal funding sources. He contends that Arizona is above the national average in federal funds expended per pupil. There is a simple answer for this: federal education spending is higher in Arizona because our state is so far above the national average in child poverty. This is what drives the allocation of federal funding. Those targeted federal funds must be spent on those federal programs, inflated or not. The size of the federal program has to fit the size of the appropriation. To calculate per pupil funding appropriately, you must only calculate it on state funding to which ALL districts and charters are entitled.
Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) has previously argued that about 70 percent of the national average is acceptable for Arizona. This misleading percentage is inclusive of local, state, and targeted federal funds. To compare apples to apples, one must look solely at state funding.
The question remains, do Arizona’s children deserve the opportunity to compete at a national and international level that a world-class education would provide? Recent events have demonstrated that Arizonans are not accepting of the status quo.
One might think from the rhetoric that McCarthy opposes education, but it is simply a matter of staunchly opposing taxes. Whether we agree or not, that’s how education is funded, in Arizona and in other states. In Arizona, we face societal and economic challenges that must be addressed. Scapegoating education funding reinforces the status quo and doesn’t move us forward as a state. If we desire safe communities and a strong economy, we will need to cease the numbers game and senseless rhetoric, and focus all our efforts on ensuring a prosperous Arizona by investing in our children.
Maria Menconi is on the board of directors of Why Not the Best Public Education in Arizona Foundation.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.