Liars figure and figures lie


The Office of Arizona Auditor General just released its 2015 “Dollars in the Classroom.” The report makes it clear that Arizona continues to struggle to adequately fund district schools while trying to stay consistent with classroom dollars and keep administrative costs below the national average.

The report also highlights the lower teacher salaries and larger classes which translate into fewer dollars for teaching and learning. But, what isn’t clear in the report is that the definition of “classroom” has changed. In last year’s budget, “classroom” was redefined as instruction, instructional support and student support. This change was made to more accurately reflect all the costs that go into classroom instruction, such as: physical and occupational therapists; reading and math intervention specialists; media specialists/librarians; counselors and social workers. The Auditor General’s Report doesn’t reflect that change for 2015.Even so, the report shows school district classroom spending at 53.6%, whereas the AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction’s report shows charter school classroom spending at 50.8%. Likewise, a recent report showed that AZ charter schools spend more than twice the amount school districts do in administration (costing taxpayers an extra $128 million). Charter schools may be public schools, but they are not included for analysis in the Auditor General’s Dollars in the Classroom Report (surprise, surprise.)

Although Arizona spends less on administration than any other state and is far below the national average, it’s classroom spending continues to be low. There are multiple reasons for this such as: low-overall funding (48th in nation); students poorer than the national average who require additional support services (ELL instruction; meal assistance; tutoring; etc.); higher plant operation due to temperature extremes; higher costs per square footage due to aging and inadequate funding for maintenance; and higher transportation costs due to vast rural and remote areas.

Dr. Tim Ogle, Executive Director of the Arizona School Boards Association, writes that “We continue to stand by the fact that the “dollars in the classroom” measure is an outmoded way of benchmarking how Arizona supports student success. It does not describe effective use of dollars dedicated to teaching, learning and graduating students that are equipped with the skills to succeed in the real world. The real issue should be student achievement.”

Ah yes, but true achievement is hard to track, measure, and compile. True achievement is tracked by teachers in their classrooms, and parents in their homes. True achievement comes when the environment surrounding a student is conducive to learning, and when the adults at every stage of the process, are student focused.



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Linda Lyon retired as a Colonel (Thomas) from the U.S. Air Force in 2007 at Andrews AFB, Maryland where she served as the Mission Support Group Commander (city manager) for a 20,000 person community with 2,000 people under her command. After retirement from the Air Force, she managed a $28 million logistical service contract at the Department of Energy and served as Deputy Program Manager for the $30 million SBInet contract at L-3 Communications. Since moving to Tucson in 2008, she (and her wife Holly) created and ran four annual Wingspan charity golf tournaments bringing in almost $65,000, and she served as the organization’s Director for 14 months. She also served in key positions for five AZ legislative races. Linda is in her second term as a Governing Board member for the Oracle School District, was named Advocate of the Year for 2013 by the Arizona School Board Association and in 2018, served as the Association's President. She'll be the past president in 2019 and will also be serving as the Federal Legislative Chair for the Arizona PTA.


  1. This data and the comparisons you are making are meaningless. Classroom support dollars are teacher support dollars. Teachers need more support. Calling them administrative dollars is a deception because of the automatic assumption of deadweight loss. Classroom support can be incredibly valuable. Having lesson plans and curriculum completely mapped out is a tremendous assist to teachers. Providing feedback and encouragement to teachers is essential to success. To stand back and assume that these meaningless numbers mean something is ridiculous.

    • Says the climate denial guy, even after Exxon admitted to making up the faux science.

      Still very hard to take anything you say seriously.

      • Tom, I’ve never taken anything ole Thuckarooskie says seriously. He exists for his comedic value.

        • Tom,
          I think you are the only person on the planet that would give a lot of credence to Exxon researchers.

          • What the???? That doesn’t even make sense.

            Why would Exxon’s scientists fake data showing their product was killing the planet?

            Look it up, Exxon, along with the other big oil companies, spent tens of millions over the last few decades paying people to write anti-climate change books/websites.

            They paid for the stuff you’ve been reading.

            Go back to those 8 books on climate change you claim to have read, and research the authors, and you find a money trail back to groups like Heartland.

            I think you’re afraid that I’m right.

            Either way, climate deniers such as yourself, along with birthers and people who believe in BigFoot, are not credible people.

            I cannot take anything you say seriously if you deny science.

          • Your article is ridiculous. Either your science is correct or it is not. Quit being a moron by pretending that this is complex science – it is not. It is very simple. Is CO2 good for the environment? Absolutely, unequivocally, yes! If CO2 rises from 400 to 700 parts per million over the next 80 years as projected, food crops such as wheat and trees growth rates will increase by over 30%. Look it up, don’t be a moron.
            Second point, the General Circulation models, the models driving the International Panel on Climate Change, lack validity, a fundamental requirement for all regression models that pretend to predict the future. If you can’t even predict the past, you sure can’t predict the future. The underlying relationship which they assume to be true, that CO2 causes temperature change is proving not to be true.

      • Linda
        You are right. The report is a great report but you really have to study it to extract its value. A superficial read can easily lead you to the wrong conclusions (your point). There is a lot of explanation of good school cost management techniques. It would be interesting to find out whether the districts that do a great job of managing costs also do a great job of managing the education enterprise. I have a strong sense of the this is true for districts such as Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert.

  2. Do a web search on “charter schools steal money” and then get back to me on why I should give a penny to any for profit charter school.

    Then look up charter schools and Wall Street. Because charter’s are a scam to move my tax money to some hedge fund manager in New York.

    The Arizona GOTeaP is a scam.

  3. Let’s dispense with the myth that charters are public schools. This has been perpetuated by the charter industry. They are not. They are privately operated schools receiving public funds. The public does not select their boards. Their boards self select. They do not answer to the voters in their area. They do not report the funds spent on their for profit management overlords. They select their students in many cases, and if a kid is kicked out or “de-selected” the student ends up in the real public school district, certainly rarely vice versa.

    • You are so right Frances. And, how often do the charters attrit students out right after the 100th day when they can collect the “per pupil” funding for that student and send him back to the district school which gets nothing?

  4. Dr. Ogle represents an organization that has decided to work in concert with Governor Ducey and the Republican legislative leadership to pass Prop 123 because they feel this is the best deal they can make with the ideologues who run this state to get at least some of the money owed us back into our schools. The Arizona Education Association has made the same fateful, yet regrettably understandable choice. When one group of people have control over so many levers of power, it is easy to feel compelled to dine on the thin gruel they are willing to serve you.

    What is being forgotten is that it is these are the same people who churn out bogus reports like this one to more securely affix the blinders on the public eye. It is these same people who are pushing the voucher and deseg bills currently being considered. Most important of all, it is these same people who have been part of a wholesale, long-range plan to discredit and gut public education.

    Again, it is not hard to see why Dr. Ogle, Mr. Morrill from the AEA, key Democratic legislators and many others who deeply care about the interests of kids and public schools decided to strike a bargain with Ducey and his cadre. The short-term gain is tempting, the deck is stacked in their favor and the potential long-term effect on the state land trust is debatable. What is not subject to debate is that passage of Prop 123 not only puts future education funding at serious risk, but it also advances the interests and agenda of those who have long been trashing public schools and the people who work in them. If anyone doubts that fact, then they are not merely deluding themselves. Passage of Proposition 123 will be used by the Republicans as “proof” that they “care” about kids and schools…and it will embolden them to continue the assault on public education they have been mounting since the Symington days.

    Many people who support Prop 123 say we should pass it, take our pittance and run strong, pro-education candidates in two years. We will weaken their chances and strengthen the case of their opponents by passing this measure. Worst of all, we will be helping people who we have known are the enemy for the last quarter century to further their twisted cause. Many of us who serve in public education are unwilling to lie down with our foes and trust that they won’t slip us a mickey.

    • Thanks for your comments CE. Understand and respect your position, but I’m going to get whatever we can get now and then work real hard to get more pro-public education candidates elected. That’s the only way we’ll ever really change things.

    • Career educator does a good job of explaining the complexities of Prop 123. It will allow this governor, Deadbeat Ducey, to claim that he is the “education governor”….while those of us who decry his deal with the devil will be called “against education”. But its not a name game, and we can no more depend on some mythical ability to elect pro-education candidates in the future (why haven’t we been able to do that yet? And we haven’t even been “fighting” against a self-defined “education governor”) than we can depend on Mr. Deadbeat himself and his band of conservative renown to cough up the money that they owe to public education. If we saw this in another country, we would call it massive corruption, and probably invade in order to “bring democracy”. Thats not a tactic I support, but undemocratic we are, and corruption in the statehouse is the name of the game.

      • Exactly my point Betts! Our effort to elect pro-public education candidates CANNOT be mythical. If every person who cares about public education isn’t engaged in supporting candidates that will matter, they need to just shut up and accept our fate. Every bit of support helps…donate, walk for candidates, hold house parties, endorse, write letters to editors and easiest of all, sign up for thenAZ Legislature’s Request to Speak system to have your viewpoint rendered into the official record. I will continue to remain hopeful because to give that up means we give in!

  5. While this is a useful distinction for comparisons across years, it is not useful for comparisons across districts. Our local largest school district, TUSD, still scores much higher on Administrative costs, and much lower on classroom costs than other similarly large public school districts in Arizona. Comparitive analysis is one way to get around the Liars figure/Figures Lie difficulty–the figures may be lying, but they are lying the same for everyone.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Bett’s! Good point. There are many different ways to compare the numbers. The districts are compared with similar districts in the area of efficiency, achievement, and transportation. Size doesn’t necessarily make districts similar, there are many factors.

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