Kids are back to school. Teachers are back to work. And special interests are back to pushing for more education dollars on the promise that students will have better results. But before policymakers cave to those demands, they should study up on the facts when it comes to school spending.

A new study by the Goldwater Institute shows that more money is not a cure-all when it comes to bettering Arizona’s K-12 education system. Read about the report here.

“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.”

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. 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 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.

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