That title is not a typo. In fact, we think it’s pretty embarrassing.
Recently, the Arizona Auditor General released its annual report on classroom spending. As I did some quick math on the per pupil spending numbers, I realized a startling fact: Arizona parents pay twice as much for a teenaged babysitter on the weekends than the state of Arizona spends per hour on public education. Let that sink in for a minute.
This means we are spending less than $6 per hour for schools to be safe, materials to be high quality, and good teachers to teach each student in Arizona. How much do you pay for your weekend babysitter? Your summer nanny? How skilled in teaching critical lessons do you think they are? Don’t our students deserve better?
According to the Auditor General report, Arizona spends around $3,500 less than the national average per student per year. It’s why Arizona ranks 50th in the nation in per-student spending. Although every little bit helps, recent incremental increases won’t make much of a difference.
So, how much should we be spending on our students? For a point of reference, many in the education community believe that $10,000 annually is a more reasonable, realistic goal. Yet, Arizona is only spending an average of $8,296 per student each year total from all local, state, and federal sources. This means we are spending $46 per school day on our students, which adds up to less than $6 per hour they are in school.
Arizona voters think students deserve better than this. According to a poll we conducted, 88 percent of Arizonans believe there is a need for additional funding for our public schools. Even more revealing, 66 percent would vote to increase taxes in order to provide additional funding for Arizona’s public schools – up three points from last year.
That same poll found voters support a much larger investment in education. A full 73 percent support $1.5 to $2 billion dollars in new education funding from a mix of taxes. Only 18 percent did not support a large investment in education.
It is clear that voters believe our teachers and students deserve better, and they are ready to take action – even if that means raising taxes. They know we need to do what’s right.
For example, lawmakers can come together this year to pass an education funding package using the higher-than-expected revenue they are currently deciding how to spend. However, schools also need a longer-term revenue stream. This can be accomplished through legislative action, a legislative referral or a citizen’s initiative. But no matter how it gets accomplished, Arizonans are ready to fully fund our public schools.
Rebecca Gau is Executive Director of Stand for Children Arizona