Wed, April 01

Prop. 301 shows up in schools

This is Part 1 of a two part series on how Proposition 301 money is being used by school districts. Part II will look at the impact the sales tax money has had on teacher salaries.

The additional sales tax approved by Arizona voters in 2000 is showing up in the state's classrooms.

In 2003, school districts throughout the state spent almost $224 million of the additional money raised by the tax. They are spending it in their classrooms.

The Office of the Auditor General has completed an analysis of how Arizona's school districts are spending their money, including Proposition 301 money.

According to the auditor's report, school districts statewide spent an average of 58.6 percent of their budgets in 2003 in the classroom. That is an increase of 0.4 percent from fiscal year 2002. Even so, the auditor's office reported that Arizona's average percentage of dollars spent in the classroom is below the national average of 61.5 percent.

The definition of classroom dollars was developed by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. The definition includes current expenditures for classroom personnel, instructional supplies, instructional aids, field trips, athletics and cocurricular activities.

Not only is Arizona behind the national average for percent of money spent in the classroom it also lags behind the 10 states closest to Arizona in per-pupil spending. Those "peer states" averaged 61.6 of their expenditures on instruction, based on NCES data.

Beaver Creek Elementary School District spent 63.1 percent of its budget in the classroom, beating not only the state average but also the national average. It was the only district in the Verde Valley to spend more in the classroom than the national average.

Mingus Union High School District spent 59.4 percent of its budget in the classroom, topping the state average of 58.6.

The auditor's report states that Proposition 301 has, in fact, helped raise the amount of money being spent in Arizona's classrooms. The average could have been higher, though. According to the report, Arizona school districts are spending their money proportionately less in the classroom than they did prior to receiving Prop. 301funds.

The report also demonstrates that statewide Arizona districts spend a lower percentage of their budgets on administrative costs than the national average. Arizona districts average 9.9 percent of budgets spent on administration compared with 10.9 percent nationally. That statistic holds true for only two schools in the Verde Valley. Camp Verde Unified School District spends 8.1 percent of its budget on administration, and Clarkdale-Jerome spends 8.5.

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