In fiscal year 2017, Arizona districts spent 53.8 percent of available operating dollars on instruction—the first increase in the instructional spending percentage in 13 years. However, since its peak in fiscal year 2004, the State’s instructional spending percentage has declined 4.8 percentage points, while the percentages spent on all other operational areas have increased. Between fiscal years 2016 and 2017, districts’ operational spending increased by $341 million with $200 million of the increase spent on instruction. In May 2016, voters passed Proposition 123, which provided districts with approximately $262 million of additional resources at the end of fiscal year 2016 and approximately $263 million of additional resources in fiscal year 2017. With the additional instructional spending, between fiscal years 2016 and 2017, the State’s average teacher salary increased from $46,384 to $48,372.
Compared to national averages, in fiscal year 2017, Arizona districts spent about $3,300 less per pupil and allocated their resources differently, spending a lower percentage of resources on instruction and administration and a greater percentage on all other operational areas.
Although factors outside a district’s control—such as district size, type, and location—can affect its efficiency, some districts operate efficiently and have lower costs despite these factors, while others do not. As a result, there are wide ranges of costs within peer groups of similar districts. Our performance audits of school districts have identified practices efficient districts use, as well as practices that make other districts less efficient. Additionally, analysis of six measures found 43 of 207 districts had a moderate or high financial stress level. District decision makers can use the details of this assessment in conjunction with other information, such as operational efficiency, to determine possible actions to reduce financial stress.
In addition to state-wide analysis, this report also contains a two-page summary for each district and the State showing their performance on various financial and student measures and graphical summaries of their operational trends. Additionally, this year and for the first time, we have prepared a Microsoft Excel file as part of this report that contains the numbers and other information presented in the graphics on the school district and state summary pages. This file can be found under “Additional Documents” on the right side of this page.