Phoenix—Fraud is a recurring problem in Arizona’s school districts, according to a new Goldwater Institute study. In fact, over the past two decades, just 10 percent of Arizona’s school districts have managed to accumulate almost $26 million in documented fraud—that’s enough to pay 540 Arizona educators the state’s average teacher salary in 2017.
The School District Fraud Formula: How to Prevent Fraud in School Districts and Protect Student Learning and Teacher Salaries is the final entry is a series of reports from Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher. In this study, Butcher turns his attention to occurrences of fraud in Arizona public school districts and how to limit such instances. As with the earlier reports in the series, he examines Arizona Auditor General reports to show where districts have misused taxpayer funds meant for students and teacher pay.
Even if the amount of money stolen in a specific case is modest compared to what the state spends on public schools each year, when compared to what a district spends on teacher salaries, the loss can be significant for a district’s budget. In one example in the report, a district administrator stole an amount equivalent to the district’s entire annual budget for teacher pay.
“Over and over again, the examples of fraud investigated by the Arizona Auditor General share three commonalities: The district is found to have weak financial oversight, the fraud frequently accumulates in small amounts at a time, and the stolen funds are often spent in creative ways,” Butcher said. “State policymakers should be aware of these patterns in school district fraud and take steps to prevent them, so that taxpayers, students, and teachers all benefit.”
Read the full report here. Read the first paper, Arizona Public School Spending, 2016-2018: What Do the Changes Mean for Families and Taxpayers?, here, and the second paper, Arizona School Districts Can Eliminate Wasteful Spending to Increase Teacher Pay, 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.