Policy Analysis No. 662
March 10, 2010
They Spend WHAT?
The Real Cost of Public Schools
by Adam Schaeffer (Cato Institute)
Phoenix, Arizona, Metro Area
Although the Phoenix area schools spend less than many other big-city districts, the
average real per-pupil spending figure of $11,800 is 27 percent higher than the average
$9,300 the Phoenix districts claim to spend. In addition, real public school spending is
more than 75 percent higher than the estimated median private school spending of
just under $7,000. Cave Creek, with per-pupil spending just shy of $14,000 (Figure 1), has the highest spending of the three Phoenix-area districts we examined. This real spending figure is 54 percent higher than the official figure—the largest gap of the three districts in this metro area. Paradise Valley comes in second place, spending over $12,300 per student. And Deer Valley spends the least of the three, at over $9,300 per pupil. This fiscal year, Arizona has grappled with a budget that fell $4.7 billion short—nearly 50 percent of the total general fund. Next year looks difficult as well, with projected revenues falling short of projected spending by $2.5 billion. On the heels of a $270 million, 22 percent budget cut, Phoenix still faces an almost $100 million shortfall this year and possible tax hikes on top of service cuts. “We have to ask residents: Do they want these draconian cuts?” said Mayor Phil Gordon. “Do they want to be understaffed in fire and police? I, for one, think our residents would want to continue the way of life in this city.” Like most of the country, the Phoenix area is facing another year of seriously constrained revenue and continuing budget pressures.
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