Arizona Spending On Instruction Down, Administration Spending Up

Both sides of the teacher pay funding debate are throwing out “facts” and figures in defense of their positions. Conservatives argue that we do not have a funding problem , we have a spending problem. Progressives argue the opposite.

The governor threw a temper tantrum last week, and vetoed 10 bills with a message to legislators that they better approve his massive spending proposal or else. Legislators argue that there is no way to give him what he wants without a tax increase.

Meanwhile, the teachers union has rejected Ducey’s scheme. With little to no actual information, they claim that the proposed funding is not sustainable.

While the union, governor, and legislators hold their ground, propaganda is pouring out to support their positions. The propaganda is powerful and the propagandists are prolific.

So far, as is always the case, teachers and taxpayers are the losers as the powers-that-be on both sides lie, ignore, and posture.

Misinformation, disinformation, and meaningless statistics

Last week, the Arizona Center for Investigative Journalism released an article proclaiming: “No link between school district administration costs, teacher pay.” The article was written to challenge messaging from “the State Policy Network, a network of conservative think tanks, that aims to discredit the nationwide movement to increase teacher pay urges conservatives and anti-union activists to turn the conversation to how “red tape and bureaucracy” and “administrative bloat” suppresses teacher pay.” The article continues:

And Gov. Doug Ducey, who last week announced a proposal to increase teacher pay by 20 percent by 2021, used his first State of the State speech in 2015 to blame school districts for spending “far too much on administrative costs” instead of directly on instruction.

But an AZCIR analysis of school district spending data compiled by the Arizona Auditor General’s Office shows no correlation between how much a school district spends on administration and how it pays its teachers.

It sounds impressive, but it fails to address “red tape and bureaucracy” and “administrative bloat” in a meaningful way, and completely ignores the fact that schools received fixed amounts from which they then dole out teacher and administrative pay. There is an absolute relationship between administrative and instruction costs because they come from the same pot. The fact that they are not positively or negatively correlated only addresses the “suppresses teacher pay” claim.

Is there administrative bloat?

Jose Borrajero discusses school funding with James T. Harris on KFYI.

In June 2017, Jose Borrajero penned a piece entitled How To Give Teachers A $10K Pay Raise. Borrajero asked if Arizona could afford to give every K-12 teacher a $10,000 annual pay raise without increasing school budgets?” He found that yes in fact, Arizona could afford it if school boards “get serious about teacher compensation instead of using it as an excuse to demand more funding, of which only 53.5% has been ending up in the classroom.”

“Simple arithmetic shows us that if we were to take the 2016 level of funding and allocate to the classroom the same percentage as we did in 2004 (58.6%), we would have had an additional $524 million going to the classroom, sufficient to have given every teacher a $10,692 pay raise, without any further raping of the taxpayers,” wrote Borrajero. “Why is this not happening? Good question for school administrators.”

Related articles:

How To Give Teachers A $10K Pay Raise

#Redfored Leadership Qualifications In Question

2008 was the high water mark for education spending in Arizona. Because Redfored uses 2008 as a reference point when discussing ideal funding, we asked the Arizona Auditor General’s Office for information on the increase of administrative costs, including salaries compared to the increase in classroom costs including teacher pay since 2008. Vicki Hanson, Director of the Arizona Auditor General’s Division of School Audits responded:

“In our fiscal year (FY) 2008 report, we reported that of the $7,813 in total per pupil operational spending, $4,480 or 57.3% was spent on instruction. 9.2% or about $719 was spent on administration. If you were to adjust these numbers for inflation to fiscal year 2017 dollars as we do in Figure 1 on page 5 of our FY17 report (, FY08 total per pupil operational spending is more like $8,955, which would be about $5,131 on instruction and $824 on administration.

“In our FY17 report, we reported that of the $8,141 in total per pupil operational spending, $4,377 or 53.8% was spent on instruction. 10.4% or about $844 was spent on administration.

AZ School Spending20082017
Spending On Instruction$4,480$4,377
% Spending On Instruction57.30%53.80%
Spending On Administration$719$844
% Spending On Administration9.20%10.40%
Total Per Pupil Operational Spending$7,813$8,141
Per pupil spending in 2008 compared to 2017 adjusted for inflation

Had 2008’s 57.3 percent instructional spending level held, today’s instructional spending would be at $4764 as opposed to the $4377 currently spent on instruction. With 1.1 million students, and 64,267 teachers reported by the Arizona Department of Education for FY2018, teachers would see an increase in pay of $6623.92. ($387 X 1.1 mil = $425,700,000 | $425,700,000 / 64,267 = $6623.92829913).

Looking for solutions

Legislators are looking for solutions that won’t break the bank and will get teachers the pay they deserve. Republican legislators believe that the governor’s plan is not feasible. Legislators like Rep. Kelly Townsend are looking closely at options:

Consolidation would eliminate some of the most egregious wasteful spending. Case in point: last week the Auditor General release the findings of performance audit of Mobile Elementary School:

In fiscal year 2016, Mobile ESD spent $17,178 per pupil on administration, much more than the peer districts’ $2,987 average, partly because it served fewer students than peer districts, on average, and therefore, costs were spread across fewer students. However, the high costs were also the result of the District employing a full-time superintendent with a relatively high salary. Further, in fiscal year 2017, Mobile ESD increased the Superintendent’s salary 24 percent, which will further increase future administrative costs.

Listen To Rep. Townsend discuss the walkout here

Consolidation is met with stiff opposition from school boards, who want to maintain their own power. It is those same school boards that approved the decrease in the percent of money spent on instruction over the years. For some reason, they are not being held responsible by the teachers for the current inequity. Many believe the school boards are given a pass because the Redfored movement is strictly political, and organizers have no interest in replacing school board members, they want to replace Ducey.


  1. For some reason, they are not being held responsible by the teachers for the current inequity.

    And you wonder why the redfored move is a sham only concerned with one thing. More money for the teachers. Its not about the students, its about the adults acting out and refusing to address where the root of the problem lies. Thursday can’t get here quick enough to see these idiots on the streets. They are too stupid to understand that they will never make up the money that they will lose on a strike. And by the way any administrator that allows them to use sick time or vacation leave that the taxpayer has paid for to strike should be immediately fired. But guess what, they will allow the teachers to do just that and will smile and say screw the taxpayer and students. They are all in this mess together. So I say let them strike, it only affects the kids that they say they so dearly love. IU call BS.

  2. It is a mathematical truth that the more you spend on admin the less you have for all other categories including classroom. Conversely the opposite is true. The less you spend on admin the more you have for all other categories including classroom. To imply there is no correlation with high admin costs and classroom spending is not only disingenuous but patently false. Finance departments across the country know this axiom to be true. Only the Sentinel and the ADS would falsely report this as fact. Every family sitting around their kitchen table knows this to be a simple truth as they pay their monthly bills and stay within their budget.

  3. They want the taxpayers to pay for indoctrinating our children. Start educating them and see if you get the money. The Teachers Union owns this mess.

  4. If the teachers want to strike over pay, why did they wait till now to do it? Would`t the rational time to strike be when they were negotiating their contracts? The fact is they agreed to teach at the levels of pay agreed to in their contracts and they have no legal leg to stand on to refuse to do the job they are being paid to do anymore than our irresponsible Governor has a leg to stand on in promising teachers pay raises over the next few years. Clearly the Governor made his irresponsible promise with one thing and one thing only in mind, his re-election and that is reason enough for AZ conservatives to refuse to vote for him again. Like his Best Bud, Crazy Senator Jeff Flake, Governor Ducey is nothing more than a fiscally irresponsible Democrat in Republican clothing. Like the Democrats, Ducey will spend every dime he can get out of taxpayers if it will continue him in office. Unlike the Democrats however, he does not understand that every dollar spent by government subsidizes the big government Democrat machine through patronage, government contracts and the like. The business of the Democrat Party is big government and every Republican who agrees to expanding the government is helping the Democrats, not good government.

  5. Sound to me like there is a lot of waste in the school systems across the entire state and if our State Representative can’t straighten this out maybe it’s time for them to let someone else do the job. Who controls all of these school districts and the superintendent’s.

  6. Vote for School Vouchers, as more children leave, lets see what their salaries will be then. Proposition 305 will be on the ballot, Parents if you want better for your children, than striking teachers, bloated school administration who earn more money and dispense a paltry sum for class rooms, then Vote to expand the Empowerment Scholarship Account. Wouldn’t you like to have your bright child attending St Elisabeth Ann Seton or Our Mother of Sorrows, or Pusch Ridge or Casaa Christian school. All good schools then there is Basis and Sonoran Science Academy, great charter schools. These teachers striking for more money don’t care about your kids or they would have chosen at least a different time table.

    I heard a young girl on the News yesterday saying she worried about the teacher strike just as AP tests are coming up. Yeah, teachers care, They don’t care about parents scrambling to find sitters or losing work and money to say home with their kids. It’s all about the money and parents,taxpayers and students be danged, what a fine example they set for those students they care so much about!

    As spoken above why didn’t this come up when they were negotiating their contracts? Good question and all I hear is crickets.

  7. On the first day of an illegal strike by public education teachers. We will see who gives in. Should be both sides. But as this mess drags out the big ‘X’ will shift from the governors office and land squarely on the backs of teachers. The Ducey plan was flimsy at best. But to get what you ask for first and then let the public sector unions take over and demand the impossible was an ill advised decision by the teachers. When the dust settles neither side will come Out unscathed.

  8. Today I am actually baby sitting my great grandchild because of the teachers strike. It is inconvenient for my grandchildren who have to work, so here I am. Not to say I don’t enjoy watching her, but still the fact remains that my grand daughter was late for work finding someone to watch her daughter, lucky for her my being retired, I am available.
    Well there goes my afternoon nap, hahaha.

    • Take the opportunity to try an erase some of the programming she received in school. We are the only defense against the way students are being indoctrinated. Hope you enjoy the day…

    • We need a balance.

      In Pima County, there are only a handful of school districts.
      In Maricopa County, there are way too many.

      It would be interesting to compare the numbers between these counties.

      In Florida, it’s the other extreme; each county is one school district. Then it become a bloated bureaucracy & breeding ground for fraud.

  9. It’s funny that all the people blasting teachers have spelling and grammar errors. Sounds like a bunch of inattentive and lazy students who continue to have grudges against people who’ve made them feel dumb are still making them feel dumb. QQ

  10. What are you talking about? Grammer mistakes. Then I answer back whose fault is it for these typed mistakes.

  11. IF the Gov would appoint a auditor general who is not mormon, maybe they would actually crack down on agencies spending instead of taking care of their friends !
    Yes he slipped a new one in while you were watching Red 4 ed .
    A COMPLETE audit needs to be ordered by the legislature on the BOard of Nursing. the spending,not doing what they are suppose to be doing, spending money needlessly to take down nurses with witchhunt paid for by the taxpayers . A n artilce with details could carry 10 newspapers !

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