Arizona’s education stagflation

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D. 
Goldwater Institute
In the latest edition of City Journal, William Voegeli’s article about the public sector strangling of the California economy provided the following nugget of wisdom:

Bill Watkins, executive director of the Economic Forecast Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has calculated that once you adjust for population growth and inflation, the state government spent 26 percent more in 2007-08 than in 1997-98. Back then, “California had teachers. Prisoners were in jail. Health care was provided for those with the least resources.” Today, Watkins asks, “Are the roads 26 percent better? Are schools 26 percent better? What is 26 percent better?”

Sadly, California is not the only state suffering from this phenomenon. As Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee documents public school spending increased from $6,497 per student in the 2000 to $9,698 in 2009. Even after taking inflation into account, this amounted to more than a 20 percent increase in per student funding.

Since the late 1990s, the average 4th and 8th grade math, reading and science NAEP scores have improved by less than 1 percent. In short, Arizona taxpayers have paid substantially more for the same bad results.

Voegeli described this phenomenon as “The Big-Spending, High-Taxing, Lousy-Services Paradigm” and both Arizona students and taxpayers deserve better. Reversing Arizona’s K-12 misery index of rising costs and stagnating scores can be done but will require a far reaching update to our broken and antiquated model of schooling.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. Will somebody PLEASE just let Great Hearts Academies run the show as far as education is concerned in this state? They do more with less… and end up with many of the brightest students in the country…

  2. And if one starts at 2002 the amount has gone up 5%. Why start at 2000? Of course this because that was before the voter approved Prop 301 went in to affect that raised funds for improvements in woefully poor school buildings (in essence paying for previous low funding), set money aside for statewide student achievement tracking, added schools days to the school calendar and meager teacher pay raises.

  3. This just popped up in my Google News alerts. Looks like Dr. Spin’s tune is off-key.

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