by David Safier
Let me repeat for the umpteenth time, I don't have the background to argue the question of how much Arizona spends per pupil. Ed Week cites a figure around $6,500, which is accepted in most circles. The Goldwater Institute figure, being picked up by Republican legislators, is around $9,700. I'll leave the number crunching for my betters on both sides.
But the pro school choice conservatives aren't very consistent in their assessment of how much we spend on education and if it's enough. Tom Horne says we're 49th in per pupil spending, which the G.I. folks disagree with. Our Accidental Gov says we're eating our seed corn by cutting school funding, while G.I. and conservative legislators say our schools are doing fine and can absorb the cuts.
And now I find this. This morning's Atlanta Journal Constitution has a point-counterpoint
about school funding. The "funding doesn't matter" argument is put forward by Dr. Benjamin Scafidi, college prof and director of the Center for an Educated Georgia
, who writes critically about the rise in school funding and the drop in graduation rates in Georgia.
21 states spend less than Georgia and have higher graduation rates, including three that are highly diverse like Georgia. Arizona spends $2,500 less per student, yet has a graduation rate that is 23 percentage points higher than Georgia’s. [bold type added]
California spends $2,000 less per student, yet has a graduation rate that is 13 percentage points higher than Georgia’s.
Texas spends almost $1,000 less per student, yet has a graduation rate that is 12 percentage points higher than Georgia’s.
He says Arizona spends $2,500 less per student than Georgia.
Scafidi, by the way, is no public school apologist. He's a pro school choice kind of guy. His Center for an Educated Georgia is "the online gateway connecting you to information and resources relating to school choice options in Georgia." Some of his writings are published by the (Milton) Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, where, by the way, G.I.'s Matthew Ladner is listed as one of four Friedman Fellows.
I looked up Scafidi's 36 page paper which forms the basis of his AJC comment, Return on Investment? Public Education in Georgia. It was published a few months ago, in January, 2009. On page 19, he lists the amount states spend per student, starting with the lowest. Utah comes in at $5,828, and Arizona comes in at — drum roll, please — $6,559. Scafidi lists Georgia at $9,193.
I'll tell you what, G.I. Before you try to convince all us bleeding heart public school advocates that Arizona spends an unconscionable $9,700 per student, will you get your fellow pro school choice conservatives on the same page? If they don't accept your number, why should I?