Ladner on 49th

Over the last month, we’ve all heard the statistic thrown out that Arizona ranks 49th in the country when it comes to student reading. Those who frequently visit Blog for Arizona have read the debate taking place between Matthew Ladner, Ph.D. and Savid Safier.

Today, Dr. Ladner sent out the following message to help further put the issue into perspective:

Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.49th or 149th, it’s not about spending, it’s about results
By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Over the past couple weeks I have been debating progressive blogger David Safier and his readers about per pupil spending in Arizona public schools. It’s been a good exchange, and I have learned things in the process.

As I’ve discussed before, the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s financial report revealed that in 2007-08 Arizona schools received $9,707 in revenue per pupil. There are some small sources of revenue included in those figures, like students buying lunches with their own money and a small allocation for adult education, which ought not to be counted. The JLBC recently produced an expenditure total of $9,399 per pupil. Both of these are well above the $6,500 per pupil myth, often reported in the news media.

For those who wish to obsess about where Arizona ranks compared to other states, I have conceded that I don’t know how many other states may be low-balling their numbers in ways similar to Arizona. In the absence of reliable national numbers, I have pledged not to make claims about where Arizona ranks, even if the usual suspects continue to claim Arizona is ranked 49th (along with several other states).

Personally, I don’t think it matters much where Arizona ranks as a state. Arizona charter schools receive $7,800 per pupil and the average private school tuition is $5,500, and they often out-perform traditional public schools. It isn’t about spending, it’s about results.

Where does $9,000 per pupil rank Arizona compared to other nations? President Obama suggested an answer in a speech last week:

“Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us. The relative decline of American education is untenable in our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children. We cannot afford to let it continue. What is at stake is nothing less than the American dream.”
When we have a huge budget deficit and school choice programs get better results for less money, it seems obvious which direction we should go.

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


  1. William Crum says

    I believe that AZ is now 51st but first in identity threat. We really have our priority straight, don’t we.

  2. Dr. Ladner would be doing everyone a favor if he would use his obvious skills and intelligence and become a teacher. Why doesn’t the Goldwater Institute start a charter school? That would be a great service to parents and students.

  3. A few years ago my son brought home a syllabus for his AP English class. I found 23 grammatical errors and 14 misspelled words in it. So why is it that Johnny and Sally can’t read?

  4. Veritas Vincit says

    Arizona charter schools average $7,800 per pupil and the Arizona private school tuition average is about $5,500. And the public schools are nearing $10,000 per student to produce what???

    But is it really about spending for results?

    Look at the cost per student in the countries who will compete with this next crop of Arizona students. Its not the money.

  5. Hagar,

    As an English teacher on the college level, I’m not surprised that your son’s English teacher is so incompetent as to leave all those errors in the class’s syllabus.

    Really bright people do not often go into teaching. Part of it is the low salary, but part of it is all the other problems teachers face.

    Those of us who are older are lucky. Due to discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s, highly intelligent women and minorities who were my teachers couldn’t get jobs. (I had an African-American electric shop teacher in my NYC junior high who had a Ph.D. in chemistry.) Today these people become lawyers, physicians, architects, engineers, etc.

    It is not a coincidence that the lowest SAT scores among incoming college majors are those majoring in education.

  6. Veritas Vincit says


    You are bang on right about the quality of teachers pre-1970’s. However, since the 1970’s teaching has become more of an activist educator process or activity rather than simply teaching.

    that’s why I split ‘educators’ produced from a School of Education apart from gifted true ‘teachers’. They are not the same. Educators will wear down teachers until teachers leave the school.

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