September 26, 2018

When Arizona teachers participated in a week-long walkout earlier this year, they argued that increased education budgets were a must in order to enhance the quality of education, boost teacher salaries, and create better student outcomes. But is that really true? A new Goldwater Institute report shows that that’s not necessarily the case.

In case you missed it: Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow and education expert Jonathan Butcher joined Fox 10 Phoenix’s “John Hook’s Newsmaker Saturday” to talk about his brand-new Goldwater Institute report, Arizona School Districts Can Eliminate Wasteful Spending to Increase Teacher Pay. The paper uses Arizona school district performance reports from the state auditor general to show how poor spending practices are mishandling and misallocating taxpayer dollars that could instead go to classroom learning and teacher salaries. (You can watch the full segment above.)

As Jonathan explains in his segment, this waste occurs in several areas—in administrator pay, administrative expenses like transportation and food service, vacant and underutilized school building space, and desegregation spending that can’t be traced to desegregation-related activities. And this waste adds up to some serious money: In the Eloy Elementary School District, he says, “they produced 21,000 more meals than was needed in 2015 and much of that food was just thrown away. If that money, which, by the way, was about $73,000, was just divided among the existing teachers, you could give raises to the teachers in that district of about $1,600.”

Jonathan says when it comes to education spending, the most important factors to consider are student performance and the value school districts are getting from the money they currently have. “Student achievement in Arizona compared to other states has actually been pretty positive, especially over the past decade,” he points out. “We’ve seen student achievement improve on a national indicator.” So rather than throwing more money at districts that may be used improperly, “we need to figure out how to get the most out of what taxpayers have already put into our schools.”

You can read Jonathan’s full report here.

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