by David Safier
The Goldwater Institute loves to place Arizona's per pupil expenditures at around $9,000, thousands higher than the number cited in most national comparisons. That's to prove that we lavish a ridiculous amount of money on our students here in Arizona. Then it uses an apples-and-oranges comparison of its high figure with the usual per pupil spending figures in other states to show we're not really 49th in spending.
[UPDATE: Matthew Ladner lists this little sleight of hand in his 10 Myths about Arizona education:
Myth No. 3: Arizona already ranks 49th in the nation in education funding and we don’t want to be number 50.
Fact: When all of Arizona’s funding streams are added up, Arizona school funding ranks in the middle of the states at more than $9,000 per student per year.
END OF UPDATE]
(I wish these very intelligent people would be intellectually honest once in awhile. There's plenty worth fighting about concerning educational philosophy, but most of their material is spin and blather to confuse and confound, not to illuminate.)
Of course, our Republican legislators are picking up the $9,000 figure and throwing it around with abandon.
Funny thing, though. A conservative group that compares per pupil expenditures puts Arizona at number 50: $6,248 per pupil compared with a national average of $9,389.
The publication is the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) Report Card on American Education
. The foreword is by Bill Bennett, Reagan's Ed Secretary and about as doctrinaire a conservative as you're going to find anywhere.
ALEC ranks Arizona 31st in educational achievement, by the way, which, I suppose, shows we're getting lots of bang for our buck. Except that it arrives at the 31 figure by mixing ACT and SAT scores — tests taken by only a portion of students that varies from state to state — with the NAEP score, which is accepted as a way to compare student achievement state to state. On the NAEP, we rank around 42nd according to ALEC, which is probably a reasonably accurate assessment of our national achievement rank, but we're in the 20s and 30s on the ACT and SAT, which boosts the score. (Of course, far fewer Arizona students take the ACT and SAT than many other states, so you can't really compare the scores.)
Once again, intellectual honesty is left bleeding on the ground with a conservative shiv stuck in its back.
(I can see your eyes glazing over out there. Sorry for getting wonky on you, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.)