Per pupil spending on instruction by Kyrene School District exceeds that of similar sized districts and the state average while Tempe Union High School District spends more than other districts its size on instruction but less than the state-wide average, according to a report by the Arizona Auditor General.
The report shows that Kyrene’s instructional spending per pupil not only increased in the 2017-18 school year over the previous year, from $4,494 to $4,685, but that amount surpassed the $4,238 spent by districts the same size as well as the $4,480 statewide average for all districts.
Administrative per-pupil costs in Kyrene of $674 were well below the $786 districts the same size spend per pupil on administration and the $860 state average for all districts.
Kyrene’s per pupil spending for both student and instructional support, however, was lower than that of both districts its size and the state average. Kyrene spent $458 per pupil on student support while districts its size spent an average $646 and the statewide average was $693. Kyrene’s per pupil instructional support for last school year was $281 while the average spent by districts its size was $486 and the statewide average was $462.
The AG report said Tempe Union’s per pupil instructional spending of $4,201 was higher than the $4,135 spent by similarly sized districts but below the $4,480 state average.
The report also labels as ”very high” Tempe Union’s average per-pupil spending on administration and food service. It’s per pupil cost of administrators was $908 last school year – above the $804 per pupil average spent by similarly sized districts and the statewide average of $860.
Tempe Union’s per-pupil cost of student support was $687 – above the $624 average spent by similarly sized districts but below the $693 state average. Its per-pupil spending on instructional support of $487 was below the $492 spent by similarly sized districts but above the state average of $462.
Overall, the Auditor General said classroom spending in Arizona increased for the second year in a row in 2017-18.
It said for 54 cents of every education dollar was spent this past school year on instruction. That largely includes salaries and benefits for teachers and aides as well as instructional supplies like pencils and paper, instructional software, athletics, band and choir.
That compares with 53.8 cents for the prior year and 53.5 cents the year before that. In Tempe Union, the AG said, 53.4 cents of every dollar went to instruction while Kyrene spent 62.3 of every dollar in the classroom.
But Auditor General Lindsey Perry said the instructional share statewide is still 4.6 percentage points below the high point in 2004. And even after adjusting for inflation, total per pupil spending is $177 less now than it was in 2004 and $861 below the high point in 2008 before the Great Recession.
Perry said that the additional dollars did boost the average teacher pay in Arizona from $48,372 to $48,951. And she said that overall school districts employed 101 additional teachers which resulted in a slight reduction in the state's students per teacher ratio.
Still, she said, a gap remains between Arizona and the rest of the country.
Even with the boost in teacher pay, salaries here remain close to $11,300 below the national avearge.
"Part of the reason for Arizona's lower average teacher salary may be to due Arizona's teachers having fewer years of experience, on average, when compared to the national average,'' she reported. Perry said Arizona teachers averages 11 years of experience compared with the national figure of 13.7 years.
The bottom line, she said, is that Arizona spends less than $8,300 per student in operating costs, compared with the national average of more than $11,800, with 54 percent of those Arizona dollars winding up in the classroom in Arizona compared with 60.9 percent of the higher national education spending figure.
But Perry said this isn't due to high administration costs, pointing out that these costs in the average Arizona district eat up 10.4 percent of dollars, versus 11.2 percent nationally.
What is making a difference, she said, are other costs.
One of those falls in the category of "plant operations,'' primarily what districts spend on energy costs.
She said some districts have worked to identify the potential for improved efficiency and cost savings. But, overall, Arizona schools spend 11.9 percent of their budgets on plant operations, versus 9.2 percent for the rest of the country.
Per pupil spending by Kyrene on plant operations was $817 while districts the same size spent $815 and the state average was $988. Tempe Union’s per pupil spending on plant operations was $1,095 as opposed to $941 spent by districts its size.