School district spending analysis

State of Arizona

5% decrease

State's spending by operational area

Classroom spending, 69.5%
Instruction, 54.5%
Student support, 9.2%
Instruction support, 5.8%
Nonclassroom spending, 30.5%
Administration, 10.2%
Plant operations, 11.3%
Food service, 4.7%
Transportation, 4.3%
For definitions of what is included in operational spending and each of the operational areas, see the “Spending areas” section on the Glossary page.

Every year, school districts must decide where to allocate their monies. This pie chart shows how, as a State, Arizona’s public school districts collectively spent their funding by operational area, including the percentage they spent in the classroom and specifically on instruction.

We have monitored instructional spending since FY 2001. Below are highlights from the State’s instructional spending trend showing the most recent year-to-year change and the years districts collectively spent the highest and lowest percentages on instruction.

Why monitor school district spending?

Beginning with the FY 2016 budget, the K-12 education budget reconciliation bills have included the following wording each year:

“The governor and the legislature intend that school districts increase the total percentage of classroom spending over the previous year’s percentages in the combined categories of instruction, student support, and instructional support as prescribed by the auditor general.”

The bar chart below, "Percentage point change in spending by area," shows how the percentage of school districts’ spending on each area has changed from the prior fiscal year and 5 fiscal years ago, including the total change for classroom spending. Most school district funding is based on the number of students attending, and districts can choose how to spend most funding, so every decision a school district makes to spend on one operational area directly impacts its ability to spend on another. For example, if a district has higher spending in plant operations, it will have fewer dollars to spend on instruction.

To put the spending percentages in context, it can also be helpful to review per student spending in dollars. For example, a district’s overall spending might increase, but its percentage spent on an operational area may decrease if the dollars per student spent on that area stay the same or even increase.

We have also included the FY 2021 national spending percentages and per student spending averages, which are the most recently available, to compare to the corresponding year of Arizona spending.

Nonclassroom spending by category

In reviewing State-wide nonclassroom spending in more detail, spending on some areas, like administration, is heavily driven by a single category of costs whereas spending on others, like food service, is more evenly distributed across different categories.

Operational efficiency measures

FYs 2020 through 2022

In addition to monitoring spending on a percentage and per student basis, calculating performance measures at the State level and monitoring them over multiple years can also identify trends in school district operations that are being seen State-wide, such as changes in students attending, meals served, and transportation miles driven and riders transported. State-wide performance measures also provide benchmarks districts can use to compare and track their efficiency.

Student achievement

In FYs 2020 and 2021, State assessment testing was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with school districts being exempted from conducting State assessments in FY 2020 and not all eligible students participating in FY 2021. We have included the percentage passing for each of the past 5 fiscal years, excluding FYs 2020 and 2021 for the reasons previously noted. For additional information on how these percentages were calculated, see the “Student achievement” section on the Glossary page.