Arizona is at the top of the list of states with the largest cut in K-12 and higher education funding since the 2008 recession, according to a groundbreaking report by the American Federation of Teachers.
Governments in 25 states have shortchanged public K-12 education by $19 billion over the last decade, the report found. “A Decade of Neglect: Public Education Funding in the Aftermath of the Great Recession” details for the first time the devastating impact on schools, classrooms and students when states choose to pursue an austerity agenda in the false belief that tax cuts will pay for themselves.
Over the past decade, Arizona cut its public education spending by nearly $1.1 billion—the fourth-worst showing.
For higher education spending, Arizona comes in third, reducing its postsecondary investments by $1.05 billion.
“Arizona should be ashamed of its disinvestment in education. As the public made very clear during the walkout, they want more investment, not less, in our education system. There is no one to blame but elected officials—most of them Republicans—who would rather hand out tax cuts than give our kids a well-funded education. The fact is, money matters in schools,” said Ralph Quintana, president of Arizona AFT.
The report found chronic underfunding explains why the most recent data indicates that the average teacher salary in Arizona is lower in 2018 than it was in 2009 and that the pupil-teacher ratio was worse in 2016 than in 2008.
The report also measures each state’s “tax effort”—that is, how much they tax, compared with how rich they are. Of the 25 states with the worst K-12 funding, 18 have reduced their tax effort since the recession, including Arizona.
“These problems belong squarely at the feet of elected officials, many of them Republicans, who rather than investing in our future, insisted on ushering in counterproductive austerity,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “When legislators choose to prioritize millionaires over children, our country suffers. And when our education secretary says that money doesn’t matter in schools, we tell teachers, parents and children that they don’t matter either.”