by David Safier
A very well funded special interest group continues to promote this [$9,700] statistic to the legislature and the media. Problem is, it isn’t a number that any reputable group would use to determine how much money a school district has to spend in the classrooms. Here’s why:
1. The $9,707 number is conceived by taking the total amount of revenue received by Arizona district schools and then dividing it by the Average Daily Membership (ADM) for 2007-2008. Although it sounds like a simple way to figure things out, it fails to account for the fact that a lot of the revenue that flows through a district office has nothing to do with educating kids in the classroom…and it isn’t even money that districts can include in their budgets.
Some examples of what’s included in the “$9,700+” revenue number:
· Lunch money. The districts have to account for the lunch money from students and the federal lunch program, but these dollars are spent for (you guessed it!): lunches. In the Foothills schools, this money channels through the district office and goes to Sodexho for providing the service. This may not seem like a lot of money in the scheme of things, but in FY 2007-2008, food service money accounted for $346 million dollars in the overall Dept of Education revenue total.
· Adjacent Ways. In Arizona, businesses and schools have to pay for certain construction costs whenever the roads or public ways alongside of their properties are worked on. Last year, the Dept of Education spent over $95 million on things like sewer pipes and electrical lines that are off school property.
· Community Schools/Adult Education. The school districts need to account for this money as revenue, despite the fact that the student fees go directly to fee-based programs outside of normal school hours.
(The full 2007-2008 Department of Education Annual Report, including the data sheets for the state and individual school districts can be found here: http://www.ade.state.az.us/AnnualReport/AnnualReport2008/Vol1.pdf)
A few of the people who organized LEAN, women with school aged children, have spent literally hundreds of hours researching the various claims made by anti-public education Republicans and debunking them. The work they're doing is simply amazing. Everyone concerned about our lack of adequate school funding owes them a debt. If you want to receive their emails, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.