Let Me Help You Out Here…

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

An outfit called the Arizona Education Network took issue with a piece I wrote showing that Arizona K-12 spending has increased by 20% since 2000 while math and reading NAEP scores are up by less than 1% during approximate same period.

Unsheathing their flaming sword of justice, they wrote the following:

Update: Debunking Latest Education Spending Report by Special Interest Group – AZ student population up 22.7% while funding only grows 20%

January 12th, 2010

US Census Department Figures show that the Arizona population increased 28.6% from April of 2000 to July 2009.

During the same period, average daily membership (the term used to refer to the total enrollment of students through the first 100 days of the school year) in Arizona schools increased 22.7%.  (According to a report to the Arizona Senate) .

So when special interest groups decry a 20% increase in education funding in the 2000-2009 period, they should notice that this increase did not even keep up with the increase in the number of school children in Arizona during the same period.


Let me help you out here guys, since you seem new to this whole policy analysis thing. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to read something before you criticize it. Sometimes, that will include clicking on hyperlinks when they are provided.

For example, if you had taken the trouble to do so in this case, you would have gone to an Arizona legislative website and learned that I had used an inflation adjusted spending per pupil number to calculate the 20% increase.

Keep at it though- some day you guys may be ready to swim to the deep end of the pool. 


22 Responses to Let Me Help You Out Here…

  1. Patrick says:

    Arizona spending in 1959-60: $2,804 per pupil (2007 dollar values)

    Arizona spending in 2005-06: $7,834 per pupil (2007 dollar values)

    That is an inflation adjusted per pupil increase of 179.4 percent.

    *Both figures are “Current expenditures” which excludes capital outlays and debt repayment.

    **Source: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d08/tables/dt08_185.asp

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Matt, you’re forgetting that Arizona students are three-dimensional. Therefore, to maintain a stable level of spending, the funding must keep up with the increase in the number of students cubed.

  3. Patrick says:

    Fun fact time:

    You’d pay $4.59 a gallon in Arizona if gas prices in 1960 had risen as fast as public education expenditures – and that is excluding any price increases because of the growth in global demand for gasoline.

    The average car from 1960 would cost you $47,800 in 2007 – the price of a fully loaded “entry level” BMW 3 series or Mercedes-Benz sedan. BTW, the Corvette starts at $48,900, mmmm Corvettes….

    I’ll note that we did not get luxury performance from our public schools in Arizona.

  4. Dennis says:

    Matthew’s logic is flawed, and continues to beat a drum that should shame him and embarress Barry Goldwater. This guy picked apart Ladner’s argument point by lovely point.

  5. Motivated Voter says:

    LOL – I suspect the Grand Canyon University person above is just being polite.

    I often enjoy Matthew’s posts, but this one sounds a bit like the 3rd grade bully who is hoping that his name-calling and loud behavior will detract from the fact that he just got caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing.
    I agree with Dennis…the link above (http://www.blogforarizona.com/blog/2010/01/fools-gold-gi-creates-aen-straw-man.html) is pretty succinct.

  6. Matthewladner says:

    Sorry Dennis and Motivated, you will simply have to do much better than this.

    I start in 2000 because that is just how far the JLBC numbers go back. If they went back further, they would simply make my point even more than they already do.

    Furthermore, as I have explained on Blog for Arizona some time ago, all of these claims about lunch money and sidewalk construction projects ultimately don’t amount to much. The Superintendent’s financial report tracks revenues, and the JLBC expenditures.

    Some of the magic * money are revenues (like lunch money) and others (like sidewalk construction) are expenditures. The JLBC tracks expenditures, while the Superintendent’s Financial Report tracks revenue. Strangely enough, the revenue per pupil figure is only a few dollars per pupil off from the expenditure per pupil figure.

    Unless these errors just happen to almost perfectly cancel each other out, the logical conclusion to draw is that neither the expenditure or revenue errors amount to much in a $9 billion + public school budget.
    One of the claims involves adult education- and if I recall the BfA discussion correctly this amounted to a mighty $13m statewide (i.e. a rounding error).

    • Dennis says:

      Jeremy, you’ve lost sight here. You admitted that you only “meandered” through their post. Then criticize it. Talk about a loss of credibility! And IF you had taken the time to read through their entire post, you would have read that AZ is spending, per pupil, less now than in the 1980s. Among more relevant data.

      In the future, Jeremy, YOUR credibity would be less likely to be criticized if you didn’t admit you haven’t read something before posting an uninformed dig at it! (Shaking my head and rolling my eyes, really people!)

  7. Greg Forster says:

    I love that MV above calls Matt a third-grade bully and then denounces him for “name calling.”

  8. Jeremy says:

    “In 1979 Arizona was investing about 69% of the total general fund budget on K-12 schools, community colleges and universities. Today about 57% of our state budget is devoted to our schools. We are essentially paying LESS, and demanding MORE.”

    Boy, that’s some brilliant analysis there…I read that and immediately the rest of his comments lost all credibility.

    • Alsadius says:

      What, you think that government has grown in the last 30 years? Come on now, we all know that there’s no way that happened.


  9. Patrick says:

    If anything adult education SHOULD be counted. Adult education represents a failure in public education to get it right the first time around.

    Dennis, if you pay 69% of the budget toward education in 79 and 57% in 2009 you cannot conclude that you spend less on education. It could be 57% of a much larger pie – in fact it is. See my comment at the top.

    From 1959 to 2006 (latest data available), Arizona increased its inflation adjusted per pupil spending 179%. That means you have drastically increased spending. That massive increase is just a smaller part of a much larger increase in government spending elsewhere in Nevada.

  10. Patrick says:

    *Arizona (I’m in Nevada now, but I meant to say Arizona)

  11. a=Total revenues Arizona (2005-2006) $8,833,520,000
    b=Total revenues Arizona (1991-1992) $3,226,760,000

    c=Enrollment, Arizona (Fall, 2006) 1,065,082
    d=Enrollment, Arizona (fall, 1992) 673,477

    The calculator says…
    a/c= $8293.00
    b/d= $4791.00

    You will have to adjust for inflation.

  12. Ellis says:

    You’re missing the point. Maybe because you all are home school advocates. It’s about an apple-to-apple comparison, which you all are losing sight of. Matthew Ladner has gone on record admitting that he should NOT be using the $9500/pupil number, but it’s ideologically imperative that he continue to strum that number. It’s smoke and mirrors, and an attempt at a major distraction. (And how the GI keeps their 501(c)3 status in light of all their politicking…I’m uncertain, but the more they do it, the more they risk an IRS audit!)

    But here’s something to consider…Arizona’s largest demographic are parents of school aged kids. And 90ish percent send their kids to public schools. People like Ladner may continue to perpetuate whatever misinformation they want to in order to satisfy their Libertarian/Anti-Tax-At-All-Cost businesses, but parents are noting what’s happening in their schools. And they aren’t happy.

    I’m willing to bet that this unhappiness will be reflected in the 2010 election cycle…

  13. (Ellis): “…parents are noting what’s happening in their schools. And they aren’t happy.”
    Insufficient taxpayer generosity is the problem. It does not take 12 years at $8000.00 (or even $4,000.00) per pupil year to teach a normal child to read and compute.

  14. Sorry. Insufficient taxpayer generosity is NOT the problem.

  15. Patrick says:

    Students in Estonia are better educated than kids in Arizona (and Nevada). Estonia can graduate a better educated kid from high school for the same price it takes Nevada to get a kid into 5th grade.

  16. Greg Forster says:

    I’m confused. If, as Ellis asserts, all of here are “home school advocates” and “anti-tax-at-all-cost,” then why do we talk so much about school vouchers, which spend taxpayer money and don’t go to home schoolers?

  17. matthewladner says:


    I have certainly conceeded that there might be some revenue sources in the $9,698 figure that ought not to be there (kids twinkie money at lunch that goes to a private vendor) and possibly some expenditures that are not education related (sidewalk expenses, etc.)

    These possible sources of error, however, are ultimately small and inconsequential in a multibillion public school budget. Your side would like to use them as a magic astrix and pretend like our K-12 spending is $6,000 per pupil, that Arizona is 49th in spending, etc.
    When the JLBC and the Superintendent’s Financial report place expenditure and revenue per pupil at near $9,700, those on your side of the argument start making up stories about right of way expenditures and adult education. Luckily, no one has any way of quantification of those expenses, meaning that they serve as a magic astrix.

  18. Isn’t it odd that the argument turns on the issue of whether “education” spending (current per-pupil in inflation-adjusted dollars or total revenues/total enrollment, adjusted for inflation) has increased or decreased, with a decrease taken as a problem? Isn’t a reduction in cost usually considered beneficial? Shouldn’t “last in per pupil spending” be something to celebrate, other things being equal?

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