The State’s instructional spending percentage increased to 55.3% (FY 2021) from 54.9% (FY 2020). 55% of districts increased their percentages.
The State’s per pupil operational spending amount increased by $840, or 9.2%, from FY 2020 to FY 2021. More than half the increase went toward instruction.
The State’s average teacher salary increased 16.5% since FY 2017—falling short of the State budget bills' intended 20% increase by FY 2021.
We have identified inefficient school district practices that, if addressed, could result in more money available for instruction.
Both the COVID-19 pandemic and federal relief monies affected districts’ operations, primarily in food service and transportation.
Instructional spending percentage
Why monitor instructional spending percentage?
State-wide ISP percentage point change from prior fiscal year
School districts that increased their ISPs
State-wide ISP and percentage point change from prior fiscal year
|Fiscal year||Instructional spending percentage||Percentage point change from prior year|
Per pupil spending
Why monitor per pupil spending?
State-wide per pupil operational spending increased
State-wide per pupil operational spending trends
|FY 2001||FY 2020||FY 2021||Change||Change|
Average teacher salary
Why monitor average teacher salary?
State-wide average teacher salary increased 16.5%, or $7,977, since FY 2017—falling short of the intended 20% increase by FY 2021
Cumulative State-wide average teacher salary increase fell short of intended goal
Most districts increased their average teacher salaries, but less than half met the 20 percent intended goal
School district efficiency
Why monitor spending variation among similar districts?
Range of plant operations spending per square foot by operational peer group in FY 2021
Peer groups in towns and rural areas
Peer groups in cities and suburban areas
What are some inefficient practices we’ve identified?
|Inefficient practice||Identified cost savings|
|Operating schools far below designed capacity and maintaining excess space||$966,819|
|Higher noninstructional staffing levels and/or compensation rates, overtime and paying employees for hours not worked, inadequate oversight of payroll process leading to errors in pay||$913,470|
|Disadvantageous solar contract terms, higher utilities rates and usage in comparison to peers||$660,000|
|Lack of controls over fuel or general supplies use, not monitoring supply costs in comparison to peers||$271,133|
|Setting meal prices too low or not appropriately charging for meals, excessive food waste or cost due to not utilizing commodities, lack of of meal-production monitoring or overproducing meals, inadequate oversight over participation in federal reimbursement programs||$179,207|
|Not charging fees or obtaining grants or donations to cover costs of community programs||$35,700|
|Unnecessary noninstructional travel expenses including spending more on meals and travel for employees and governing board members than State travel policy allows||$16,309|
How can districts use this information?
COVID-19 pandemic affected school district operations and spending
Districts were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic for all of fiscal year 2021, making the pandemic’s impact even more evident than in fiscal year 2020 when districts were impacted by the pandemic for only 3½ months. State-wide, students attending districts decreased by approximately 50,000 students, or 6%, which is the largest year-to-year change in students attending since 2001. In fact, State-wide students attending districts remained relatively consistent for the past 15 years before this decrease. Fiscal year 2021’s decrease is important because most of a district’s funding is based on students attending, so individual districts whose number of students attending substantially decreased likely also experienced reduced funding. However, districts also received a large influx of federal COVID-19 relief monies.
Many districts continued to adapt their operations to respond to the pandemic, including providing in-person, virtual, or a combination of learning environments, which may have impacted not only how they spent their monies but also how they operated support programs.
Number of meals served, riders transported, and miles driven decreased from prior year
State-wide, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted food service and transportation areas more than any other operational area. Fiscal year 2021 decreases in the State-wide number of meals served, riders transported, and miles traveled were substantial, whereas these measures had previously been relatively consistent.
A majority of districts saw an overall decrease in the number of meals served, likely because of decreases in students attending, or at least students attending in person. However, some districts saw increases in meals served as they were using flexible programs that allowed them to serve meals to their communities, which had high rates of participation.
Unlike food service programs, transportation programs had fewer options to continue normal operations in fiscal year 2021. Some districts continued to transport students but with much lower ridership, whereas others did not transport any students at all but instead used bus routes to drop off meals and homework packets to students. Districts could still claim these miles for reporting purposes, which is why miles did not decrease as much as riders did in fiscal year 2021.
If you are interested in Arizona school districts’, charter schools’, and the Arizona Department of Education’s reported spending of federal COVID-19 relief monies through June 30, 2021, and planned future spending, see our Office’s special report summary and interactive dashboards.