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Arizona Public School Spending, 2016-2018: What Do the Changes Mean for Families and Taxpayers?

Joe Biden’s son is under scrutiny for his business dealings and tumultuous personal life.

This policy report finds Arizona's Clean Elections system has largely failed to live up to its stated goals. Clean Elections was trumpeted as a means to improve citizen participation. However, since the law was passed in , voter turnout has not improved. Likewise, Clean Elections promised to increase the number of candidates in each election and help reduce the incumbency reelection rate.

A review of election cycles shows that since , incumbency reelection rates have remained near percent, and in the most recent primaries, the number of candidates fell substantially. The collaboration included a panel on prosecutor races last fall at the closed-door retreat of Democracy Alliance , a coalition of groups and leaders who pool their resources behind liberal causes. In July, a similar group, The Tides Foundation , hosted campaign directors for Soros and the ACLU and racial-justice activists from Color of Change to talk about steering nonprofit money toward the cause.

In electing liberal prosecutors, participants said, the groups also seek to build voter bases for larger elections.


Donations began to roll in. Soros joined the fight. The groups paid for media buys and tapped membership lists for volunteers. Dash cam video of the shooting sparked national outrage and local protests. But other candidates have fallen short. Targeted incumbents in Arizona and Colorado survived challenges despite Soros heavily funding their opponents.

Even if they do win, some liberal prosecutors meet resistance to fulfilling their campaign promises. The Marshall Project is supported by a George Soros foundation and other organizations that support efforts to reform the state's criminal justice system. Under terms of its funding, The Marshall Project has sole editorial control of its news reporting. Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of philanthropist Kaitlyn Krieger. Also, among other contested races, it erroneously included Fresno County.

The Fresno County district attorney is running unopposed. A nonprofit news organization covering the U. Life Inside. News Inside. We Are Witnesses. The California Experiment. Death Penalty. Juvenile Justice. Mental Health. Teacher unions and other special interest groups regularly demand more taxpayer spending on district schools as part of their lobbying campaigns.

Others have also criticized Arizona lawmakers for not spending enough on K schools. School spending made headlines in in particular because of widespread administrator and teacher strikes calling for higher salaries.

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In April, Arizona became the fourth state in the U. Arizona lawmakers and voters had already set the state on a path of increasing K spending prior to the strike, and lawmakers responded to the strike with more funding increases. But district school interest groups are still calling for additional spending and tax increases. The new spending as part of the state budget is one of four significant school spending-related events in Arizona over the past three years:.

This brief will review the legislative and ballot activity and what these changes mean for taxpayers, families, students, and schools in the coming years. Critically, the recent ballot initiatives and legislative activity are no guarantee that teachers will see improved salaries. School districts traditionally determine school budgets and have the last word on teacher salaries.

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The ink was barely dry on the spending increases that ended the administrator and teacher strike before one district said teachers will not see raises as large as lawmakers had promised. Curiously, teacher salaries had gone up in the months prior to the strike. District and charter schools also see revenue from local property tax collections, changes to the tax code via voter ballot initiatives, distributions from the state land trust, and federal taxpayer funds Table 3.

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An enduring principle is that the way school leaders and teachers use resources is more important to student success than how much money is used. State audits show that districts practiced wasteful spending even during lean budget years. Officials should enforce new requirements that districts expedite the sale or repurposing of vacant or underused school buildings instead of holding on to facilities at taxpayer expense.

Finally, lawmakers should look to audits and other reports demonstrating poor district spending and hold school districts to account for these habits before looking for new sources of state revenue. T he key changes to Arizona education spending in the last three years should be considered in light of school district budgets, which ultimately determine teacher pay and have demonstrated low spending on classroom expenses for more than a decade. The administrator and teacher demonstrations were aimed at state officials, but Arizona lawmakers do not determine teacher pay.

For more than a decade, the Arizona Auditor General has monitored how districts use taxpayer money for education. The auditor reports that districts on average spent The slight increase in classroom spending was the first uptick in 13 years. School facilities are a prime example. While Arizona has been a rapidly growing state overall, not every locality has seen consistent increases. Tucson Unified School District K enrollment dropped by approximately 14, students in and , according to data from the U. Department of Education. The state auditor general reported in May that Scottsdale Unified School District also spends more than other districts on vacant school buildingsIn fiscal year , Scottsdale USD had total school building capacity of about 38, students but only had about 25, students enrolled, or in other terms, the District was using about 66 percent of its building capacity.

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Maintaining more building space is costly to the District because the majority of its funding is based on its number of students, not the amount of square footage it maintains. In , Arizona voters approved Proposition , a ballot measure that changes the amount of education spending coming from the State Land Trust and also requires additional spending from the state general fund until Prop increased the annual land trust distribution used for K public schools from 2.

The ballot measure helped settle a school-funding lawsuit that districts filed in An Arizona Senate staff policy brief says that lawmakers and districts agreed on a settlement to the lawsuit in , and the provisions at the center of the settlement became Prop While Prop adds revenue to the state formula, the proposition does not require that school districts use.

In fact, in explaining the proposition, Gov.

Thus, this proposition increases the revenue that districts will receive but does not alter the circumstances under which districts spend significant amounts on empty buildings, for example. The potential remains for districts to commit just half of each education-spending dollar to classroom expenses, as they have consistently done.

Last year, Arizona lawmakers enacted S. The bill required district and charter schools to increase teacher salaries by 1 percent in FY and another 1 percent by FY It created cumbersome language to ensure that the dollars went to the intended recipient.

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For example, S. While everyone appreciates a raise, teachers should be rewarded for job performance just like workers in other professions. Teachers should be treated as professionals and see pay increases based on job reviews.

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  • Giving every teacher a raise no matter how hard they work devalues their efforts because effective teachers will receive the same benefits as those who are less effective. Of all the changes to Arizona school spending, the pay raise in S. In , Arizona lawmakers enacted S. Prop is different from Prop in that it requires districts and charter schools use the revenues for 11 education-related purposes—in order. The legislation that extended Prop until will have the same effect on schools as the original proposition until That year, the debt service payments on district bonds will be complete, so the funds previously directed to that expense will be sent to the classroom site fund.


    For taxpayers, the sales tax increase created in is likely to persist for at least another 20 years. The Arizona budget is a reflection of Gov. The legislature sets the BSL each year. This increase, along with expected annual adjustments for inflation to the BSL, result in the potential for teacher increases of up to 20 percent by which inspired the title of Gov. Also, the legislature had previously planned to reduce education spending in , , , , and , but the budget restored a portion of that spending.

    Of critical importance to taxpayers, families, and teachers is the fact that the budget increases do not require that school districts spend the additional money on teacher salaries.