In fiscal year 2009, Arizona’s state-wide percentage of dollars spent in the classroom was 56.9 percent, which is the lowest that it has been in the 9 years the Auditor General’s Office has been monitoring classroom dollars. While the classroom dollar percentage should not be the sole criterion for evaluating school districts’ financial performance, it is a useful measure in several respects. First, its decline indicates that many districts are likely using CSF monies to shift their non-CSF monies away from the classroom, which violates state law. Second, available data indicates that, in Arizona, higher classroom dollar percentages appear to be associated to some extent with higher student achievement. Further, high spending outside the classroom is a potential sign of inefficient operations.
Nonclassroom spending can be affected by a school district’s size, type, or location. For example, a rural district may have high transportation costs because of its long transportation routes. However, despite the structural challenges of their different conditions, districts of all sizes, types, and locations have identified a number of cost-savings approaches, such as minimizing staffing levels, reducing excess space, conserving energy, and effectively managing vendor contracts.
Finally, Arizona’s Proposition 301 performance pay system addresses many of the factors that researchers have identified as impeding a performance pay program’s success in raising student achievement. However, because districts can modify the performance pay measures that are outlined in statute, the quality of performance pay plans varies widely and many plans do not emphasize student achievement goals.