Report Points to Arizona’s Funding Inequities But Fails to Critically Consider Its Own Recommendations

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Report’s critiques are stronger than its proposals for Arizona’s school finance system.

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A recent report from the Reason Foundation walks the reader through a calculation of Arizona’s complicated school finance formula, pointing out a number of funding inequities. It then sets forth 16 policy recommendations to change the funding system.

David R. Garcia, a professor at Arizona State University, reviewed A Roadmap to Fix Arizona School Finance: Steering the Grand Canyon State Toward Fairness and Innovation in K-12 Education. He determined that it lacks the necessary analyses of impact to make its many policy recommendations useful.

The report begins by describing how Arizona’s lowest-income school districts receive less funding from state and local sources than higher-income school districts. As is the case in many states, Arizona’s school districts with lower property wealth have higher tax rates and generate less revenue than higher property wealth school districts.

The report then sets forth the 16 far-ranging policy recommendations that its author argues will improve the “transparency, equity, and effectiveness of Arizona’s school finance system . . .” Collectively, these recommendations would amount to a fundamental overhaul of Arizona’s school finance system.

Yet the report is not a credible policy document because it does not provide any assessment of the impact of any of the recommendations. To illustrate, Professor Garcia calculates this impact for two of the policy recommendations, demonstrating how they would decrease Arizona’s already meager per-pupil expenditures.

Further, the report’s policy usefulness is undermined by the lack of coordination among the many policy recommendations, which may entice legislators to pick and choose which recommendations to implement and which to ignore. Professor Garcia concludes that this would lend itself to the exact type of piecemeal approach that created Arizona’s inequitable school finance formula in the first place.

Find the review, by David R. Garcia, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/az-school-finance

Find A Roadmap to Fix Arizona School Finance: Steering the Grand Canyon State Toward Fairness and Innovation in K-12 Education, written by Christian Barnard and published by the Reason Foundation, at:
https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/roadmap-to-fix-arizona-school-finance.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

David R. Garcia
Arizona State University
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