Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goldwater Institute: One percent budget reduction not crippling

We have a new entrant in the K-12 fable-making industry: a website called Stand Up for Arizona.

schoolA 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 (see page 6 of the linked report). 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.
Learn more:
Goldwater Institute: Crisis and Opportunity
Arizona Department of Education: Annual Report

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