by David Safier
Yesterday I began my journey through the Page O' Facts put together by Senate Republican Staff Policy Advisor Javan Mesnard to combat the assertion that Arizona is 49th in education funding. His method: throw out so many meaningless facts and figures that you'll forget about the pitiful state of our K-12 education budget.
If you remember, Mesnard said we're 26th in the nation in "Funding per classroom of students." It sounds good, until you logic it out. Arizona has the highest pupil-teacher ration of any state except Utah. The more students you have in a classroom, the more funding in that classroom. Mesnard is actually saying our large class sizes are a good thing.
Today's fact from Mesnard is: Arizona is 4th in the "% increase in expenditures over 20 years (in inflation-adjusted numbers)."
It's not important, just funny, that he threw in the term "inflation-adjusted numbers" to add credibility to this statistic. If you're comparing the increase across the years from state to state, the ratings won't change whether or not you adjust for inflation, because everyone is going through the same basic rate of inflation. He just threw it in because he liked the way it sounded.
So, to the important stuff. Why is Arizona's percent increase in education expenditures higher than all but three other states? It's because we've been growing like mad. Arizona's population has increased at a far more rapid rate than most other states. I don't have figures going back twenty years, but from 1996 to 2006, Arizona was second only to Nevada in its percent increase in population.
Here's the simple mathematical formula Mesnard uses: Total number of students times Amount spent per student equals Total educational expenditures.
So, if we have a high percent increase in the total number of students, we'll have a high percent increase in our total expenditures.
Translation: Mesnard's "fact" is true, but it couldn't be less relevant. The amount we spend per student is the figure that matters, not the total amount we spend, and everyone but Mesnard and the Goldwater Institute agrees, we're 49th in the nation in our per student spending.
Thanks again to Lisa Hawkins and MaryLee Moulton of LEAN for doing the research that makes Mesnard's canards so easy to deconstruct.