(The Center Square) – School spending surged in Arizona from 2018 to 2021.
While teacher pay increased in that span, it didn’t expand at the rate that the state upped its public school spending.
So while the state increased its spending on public schools by 27.9% percent over those few years, teachers received a 16.5% increase in pay, on average. That’s 11.4 points less than the increased spending rate as a whole, according to a new Goldwater Institute policy report.
The Goldwater Institute instead points out that of the available federal coronavirus funding, Arizona public schools used less than one-quarter (23.6%) of the money during the height of the coronavirus pandemic (from March 2020 to June 2021). The figure for charter schools was also a fraction of the total amount allocated (31.3%).
“The vast majority of districts’ expenditures of federal COVID funds in areas such as technology and school facilities upgrades will have occurred more than a full year or more after many public schools successfully reopened for in-person learning, suggesting these funds will primarily serve a non-COVID-related purpose,” The Goldwater Institute’s report says.
Teacher pay has been a contentious issue in recent years. Thousands of public school teachers participated in a “walkout” in 2018 in protest over low teacher pay. The Red for Ed movement has since fought for boosts in state contributions, none of which that were appropriated being satisfactory to the organization.
The Institute concludes the pandemic brought in an era of high spending on public schools that it says was avoidable; it also says that the funding has not been spent in ways that the public would have thought – including expenses that have nothing to do with combatting the coronavirus pandemic.
To prevent this from happening in the future, the Goldwater Institute offers a couple of solutions for other states to take.
“Policymakers in other states should seek to replicate the steps taken by the Arizona legislature to mandate reporting requirements on the use of all federal COVID stimulus funds,” the Goldwater Institute’s report says. “But they should also enact substantial systematic reforms, like Goldwater’s universal school choice expansion that is now law in Arizona. Such programs offer to bypass entirely the bureaucracy and middle management of our public education system, putting funds directly into the hands of families to spend on the needs of students—and by extension—to the educators whom families choose to entrust their children.”