Phoenix—When Arizona teachers participated in a multi-day walkout earlier this year, they argued that increasing state education spending was crucial to improving the quality of education and student outcomes. But a new Goldwater Institute report finds that money is not a cure-all when it comes to bettering the state’s K-12 education system.
Today, the Goldwater Institute released the first in a series of reports on public school spending in the Grand Canyon State. While many Arizona teachers have been demanding state education funding increases, lawmakers and voters had already instituted significant increases in recent years—ones that will affect taxpayers, families, students, and schools. “When it comes to student achievement, it’s clear that money can’t buy everything: There is no consistent relationship between increases in education spending and student achievement,” said Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher, who authored the new report. “For example, Arizona student test scores improved during the recent financial downturn when state education spending was decreasing.” Meanwhile, parents care about more than test scores when it comes to choosing how and where their child learns.
Furthermore, spending increases don’t necessarily mean more money for Arizona teachers. School district offices are responsible for determining school budgets and teacher salaries, so there are no guarantees that if the state spends more on education, teacher pay will go up. Furthermore, wasteful spending plagues many school districts, with school buildings remaining underutilized (or even vacant), sky-high administrative costs, and unexplained transportation and food service costs. This waste occurs at the expense of where spending is most needed: in the classroom.
Instead of looking to spending increases to tackle education challenges, lawmakers should instead consider solutions that give every child the chance to succeed in Arizona, while holding school districts accountable for budget decisions. “Arizona’s approach to education should be student-centered, allowing students and families to have a greater say in building an education that works for them,” Butcher said. “Districts must be held responsible for their actions involving vacant and underused school buildings, and pending increases should be withheld from districts with poor budget track records, so that good money isn’t thrown after bad.”
Read the full report, Arizona Public School Spending, 2016-2018: What Do the Changes Mean for Families and Taxpayers?, here.
About the Goldwater Institute
The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.