One percent budget reduction not crippling

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
Goldwater Institute
We have a new entrant in the K-12 fable-making industry: a website called Stand Up for Arizona.

A few weeks ago, the Arizona Economic Council created an advertisement equating Arizona public school funding to that of a Third World country. Of course, Arizona spends many times above and beyond the wildest dreams of Third World school administrators. But that didn’t stop them from making the claim.

Stand Up for Arizona is not so reckless with the truth. Not quite. The website does, however, complain bitterly about the $133 million in K-12 reductions in the legislature’s January 2009 budget fix:

These devastating cuts have forced already underfunded K-12 schools to lay off teachers, eliminate programs, and cancel orders for books and school supplies. Over 5,500 teachers and 2,000 school employees from 120 districts across the state have been laid off. Many of these cuts were so severe that schools had no option but to cut into core academic areas like English and Social Studies.

The writer neglects to mention that total revenue for Arizona school districts was more than $9.2 billion in 2007-8. The January reductions amounted to something in the neighborhood of 1 percent. That’s far from “crippling,” as Stand Up for Arizona suggests. 

Stand Up for Arizona isn’t doing itself any favors by crying wolf at minor reductions. Arizona faces a daunting new fiscal reality. Public schools needed to do more to boost student learning before the crisis. Now they will have to adjust to doing more with less.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. Pricinct Committeeman says

    Well, you have to figure some things out for yourself.

    For instance, the writer fails to mention that the increase in school revenues over the past 10 years was over 93 percent, while the increase in student population growth and inflation combined was just over 54 percent. He also fails to mention that the M&O budget only, the Bible of educators seeking more money, was increased by almost 83 percent. So, where did all the extra money go?

    Well, some went to untilities, which continue to increase faster than the inflation rate. Some went to fuel costs, which skyrocketed for a few years. Some went to construction costs, which were very high for three years. Most went to salaries and benefits for teachers.

    That’s right. Eighty-nine percent of all the extra money went into salaries and benefits. Most of that, to teachers.

    Teachers were also the benficiaries of Prop 301 and Prop 202 monies, which futher inflated the money going into education.

    It’s time to forget the heart-rendering “need” for more money in the classroom. That’s just education-speak for higher teacher salaries.

    Even the fake layoffs have been exposed for what they were. No wonder the AEA fought the efforts to delay layoffs until the budget was in better focus. With 5,000 employees laid-off, teachers could scream we were gutting education. That wasn’t true.

    The death of education will comoe at the hands of the union which forgets there is a real budget crisis in Arizona and America. It’s time to focus on programs for kids, and less money into teachers’ pockets until the crisis is over.

  2. kralmajales says

    Both the post and the comment above is fact and stat. twisting…period. They ARE Laying off teachers, our schools are among the worst funded in the United States and our teachers are among the worst paid. At the same time the demand for more education is going up with the population.

    One of the richest school districts in Tucson (District 16) is in fact appealing to donors to get the funds to keep from having to lay off teachers. That is fine except that few other school districts in the state have those kind of parental resources or tax bases to do this.

    Goldwater wants private education paid for with public dollars…pure and simple. The 1% argument doesn’t get at the harm done to schools, to children, to parents, and to businesses in this state that rely on education to attract economic development.

    Last, what a joke PrecinctCommitteeman. Most of the time the GOP mantra is that money is getting used up in “administration” and not getting to the teachers. Now you are arguing that somehow it did get there and that it is bad that they got it? Which is it?

  3. kralmajales says

    Oh and Dr. Ladner, can’t believe you got your PhD at Houston (or anywhere else for that matter). You make the most simplistic of arguments and then apply it to a complex system. Taking the total revenue of schools (of all sources of funds) and without looking at school districts which differ in those funds across the state, and which rely on variations of property tax collections and boil it down to being the cut funds / total funds schools get. You don’t look at mandates spending…what of that is revenue versus goes to real costs, etc.

    What is the percentage of the state budget being cut Dr.? What was the cut in the state education budget last year? Add in inflation also you fool. And you get what is a true and serious cut.

  4. Pricinct Committeeman says

    Sure. I can help you.

    Of the 83 percent increase in the M&O budgets over the past ten years, 54 percent was due to student growth and inflation.

    Of the remaining 29 percent, about 12 percent was given to teachers through income from Prop 301. Prop 202 gave another big chunk of money – I’m still getting the numbers – 1/2 of which went directly to teacher pay and 1/2 of which went for things like “professional development” which, when finished, also increased teachers pay.

    It’s no mystery that 89 percent of M&O monies go to salaries and benefits. It’s no secret that teachers make up the biggest portion of the employee base. It’s no assumption that the teachers’ union has a great capacity to stretch the truth for their own purposes.

    Oh, and calling someone you disagree with names seems immature, don’t you think?

  5. kralmajales says

    Not when the person is a highly trained social scientist and blatantly cooks data for his groups own purposes. He didn’t make mistakes, which I could forgive, but used a teeny tiny piece of the data, without any context, and stretched it to a totally unsupportable claim. That is not calling names, that is simply calling out the fact that his argument is a fraud…and coming from someone with a PhD with those methodological skills…he knows it.

  6. Pricinct Committeeman says

    Sorry. My mistake. I thought you called him a “fool,” in your sentence: “Add in (sic) inflation also (sic) you fool.”

    Considering your own lack of grammar skills, I’m wondering if maybe I was right and you did call him a name.

  7. A 1 percent reduction, passed when there are two months left in the school year, actually amounts to a much larger percentage reduction. Probably closer to between 5-10 percent. Plus Prop 301 revenues are decreasing, and collections from property taxes are decreasing, and many costs were rising – including the cost of building repair and maintenance. We need to do a better job teaching math.

  8. kralmajales says

    I stand corrected. I did call him a fool. I should have called him a “snake oil salesman.” He is no fool. He is actually crafty and selling a useless set of goods to people that hunger to buy it.

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