K-12 Education

Arizona sees modest improvements in education funding

Gerry McDonald

Arizona will see minor spending increases under Gov. Doug Ducey’s new budget proposal, which raises state spending by about $300 million.

 

Spending for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, would increase to $9.5 billion from $9.2 billion the previous year. As The Washington Times reported, the governor’s proposal would invest $10 million in the state’s rainy day fund and provide funding increases for health services and education.

 

“This budget brings us to structural balance by the end of fiscal 2017 while making critical investments in K-12 education, child safety and public safety all without raising taxes,” Ducey said in a statement.

 

Under the governor’s proposal, K-12 public education would see its budget increased by $3.9 billion, with $3.5 billion coming from the state’s land trust fund. The funding includes $30 million to increase high school-level technical education, $10 million for a new data education system and $6 million for increased college prep classes. Higher education would also see some increased funding, with $4 million going to three state universities.

 

Funding losses remain

As the Times noted, some lawmakers are criticizing the governor’s proposal as modest funding increases that will not overcome previous education spending cuts.

 

Special technical education high school districts may be especially at risk, the news outlet reported, as the $30 million increase is allocated only to specific programs, whereas as a $30 million cut in the last fiscal year affected all technical education programs.

 

“Some lawmakers say modest funding increases will not overcome previous spending cuts.”

“The superintendents I talk to say unless they get the full $30 million by March 15 they will be shutting down,” Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, told the Times. “It’s flabbergasting that [Ducey] would think to put this thing on a death spiral.”

The last fiscal year also saw a $99 million funding cut to state universities, which will only recover $4 million under the governor’s proposal. Though Ducey’s administration has expressed the goal of working toward a 50-50 funding split between state funds and tuition for public universities, the current state contribution is about 34 percent, the Times reported.

 

In a statement, Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein said the governor’s funding increases for higher education were modest, though a step in the right direction.

 

“Is the governor’s planned budget for public universities everything we had hoped for? Certainly not,” Klein said. “But it represents a critical departure from the past eight years when higher education funding in Arizona was cut by more than $463 million – the largest reductions, on a percentage basis, enacted by any state in the country.”

 

Overcoming a history of cuts

As Klein noted in her statement, Arizona families have faced increased tuition pressures following some of the highest budget cuts for education in the country.

 

According to a report from Education Week, Arizona has one of the lowest amounts of per-pupil funding of any state in the country. Overall, the report ranked Arizona the 45th in the country for education with an overall grade of D+. The state performed poorly in rubrics including students’ chances for success and school financing.

 

“Arizona ranks 45th in the country for education.”

As the Arizona Daily Star reported, the governor’s proposed education increase of $3.5 billion for K-12 education will need to be approved by voters during a special election in May before it can go into effect. Lawmakers including House Minority Leader Eric Meyer have argued that even with voter approval of the measure, officially called Proposition 123, education in the state will still be severely underfunded. Even if Prop. 123 is passed, the funding increase would not be enough to elevate Arizona from its current rank of 49th lowest state in per-pupil funding, Meyer told the Star.

 

How Questica can help

Public education institutions that depend on state funds often find themselves facing significant budgetary hurdles, even if state funds experience modest increases. Having the proper budgetary tools can help schools to better prepare for both cuts and spending increases through more thorough planning.

 

With Questica’s centralized and comprehensive school budgeting software, public schools of all sizes can use real-time data and efficient workflows to analyze and track spending. Questica’s flexible interface allows for improved efficiency in communication between administrators, teachers and other stakeholders as the school identifies expenses and monitors funding sources. The web-based software can also provide insight into budgetary factors ranging from enrollment numbers to employee benefits.

 

With unlimited versioning, Questica allows both K-12 and higher education institutions to better adapt to changes in their state funding through multiyear forecasting, position and benefit tracking, funding gap and revenue analysis, and performance management.

 

Education institutions looking to improve administration of their changing state funds should contact Questica to learn how all-encompassing, streamlined budget software can help manage spending and improve the educational experience for students.

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