Guest Editorial by Tom Jenney
Coming Nov. 3 – school override elections

October 14, 2009

tom jenneyHalf of the school districts in the state are holding override elections on Nov. 3. (Early ballot voting began Thursday.) In some cases, school districts are asking taxpayers and voters for more money. In other cases, they are asking taxpayers and voters to maintain spending at current levels.

The truth is that your school district has plenty of taxpayer money – more than enough to pay for excellent teachers and good administration. The simple fact is that they are WASTING MUCH OF YOUR MONEY.

According to page 6 from the Annual Report of the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, school districts in 2008 had revenues from all sources of $9,232,916,095:

On page 8 of that report, you can see that Arizona school districts in 2008 had 951,117 students.

Do the math, and you find Arizona school districts had resources of $9,707 per child.

(Beginning on page 58, the superintendent’s report, you can look up the figures for specific school districts, which are organized by county and then in alphabetical order by district.)

If your child’s average classroom has 25 students, that means there is $240,000 of resources in that classroom. Think about that for a moment.

There is enough money in your child’s classroom to pay your child’s teacher a very good annual salary-and-benefits package of $80,000.

There is also enough money to have a special education teacher assigned to those students, and to pay that individual $80,000 a year. And, there is enough money left over to dedicate $80,000 for administration, athletics, facilities, and other overhead.

The problem is that your district is mismanaging that money. Much of the blame goes to labor rules imposed by the teacher unions. Good teachers are not paid nearly enough, and bad teachers are not given the pink slips they deserve. Instead, under the union pay scale, good teachers and bad teachers are paid the same. Also, most school districts are very heavy on bureaucratic overhead. Further, Arizona’s school system has spent lavishly on capital projects.

Powerful lobbying groups, such as the Arizona Education Association and the Arizona School Boards Association, promote the BIG LIE that Arizona schools do not have enough resources. Your newspaper editorial boards then repeat that BIG LIE. They tell us Arizona is 49th in the country in per-pupil spending. Even if Arizona was 49th in the country, $9,700 per child is more than enough money to give Arizona the best school system in the country.

Again, the problem is not a lack of money. The problem is mismanagement.
On Nov. 3, when it comes time to vote on your school district’s override, do not be bamboozled by promises that more money will lead to increased student performance.

There is no evidence whatsoever to support that notion. If you give more money to Arizona school districts, they will very likely continue to waste that money.

America’s government schools have sucked up more and more money for decades. Since 1970 we have more than doubled per-pupil spending, in constant dollars. Sadly, we have very little (if anything) to show for those investments when it comes to student performance:

If your school district is asking to renew an existing override, do not be blackmailed by the myth that the result will be drastic spending cuts. Even school districts that are trying to renew full 15 percent overrides will lose less than ten percent of their budgets if the overrides fail.

Even with a 20-percent budget cut, there would still be enough money in the average district to provide for an excellent education. Instead of an $80,000 salary package, the available resources in your child’s classroom could support a teacher and a special ed instructor at $64,000 each, leaving $64,000 per classroom for administration, athletics, facilities, and other overhead.

Charter schools in Arizona received $7,844 per child in 2008. That is 20 percent less than the average for district schools. And yet, charter schools have proven to do a better job of educating kids, including disadvantaged student populations:

For a brief outline of how to use the charter model to reform Arizona education, check out the latest blog post by Republic columnist Bob Robb:

Further, many Arizona private schools provide an excellent education for tuition of less than $5,000 per year:

There are proven ways to improve school performance, but they do NOT involve giving lots of money to mismanaged school districts. For ideas, start in Florida:

The bottom line is that we need more education for our tax dollars, not more tax dollars for education.

Please join me in voting NO on the Nov. 3 school overrides.
For a list of upcoming events of interest to taxpayers, go to this URL: