The State of Latino Arizona: School Funding

Author: Dr. David Garcia, Arizona State University, Anabel Aportela, Arizona School Boards Association, Rob Vagi, Arizona State University and Larissa Gaias, Arizona State University

October 19, 2016

Ensuring that all students have access to an excellent education is key to Arizona’s future.  With this in mind, the State of Latino Arizona report sheds light on how two policy mechanisms (i.e. school choice and reliance on local funding sources), have affected Latino children, our state’s largest and fastest growing student group.  In what follows, we offer a summary of our findings.  A copy of the complete report can be found here.

Sources of Funding
We found that, in general, school districts and charter schools with the highest Latino enrollment (greater than 75%) receive the most in state funds and the least from local sources compared to districts with the lowest Latino enrollment (less than 25%). Taken together, districts and charter schools with high Latino enrollment receive the least from state and local sources combined. For the 2013–2014 school year, the districts with the highest Latino enrollment received $7,565 per pupil in state and local funds, compared with $7,955 for districts and charter schools with low Latino enrollment. The higher Latino enrollment school districts and charter schools did receive more in Federal funds, which resulted in a more equitable distribution of funding.

Bonds and Overrides
Over the last decade, schools have seen a decline in state funding and, as a result, have increasingly come to rely on local sources of revenue. The increased reliance on bonds and overrides has put schools with high Latino enrollment at a disadvantage because these school districts have less property value wealth than other districts.  Therefore, residents must tax themselves at higher rates to generate the same amount of money as school districts with higher property values.  Further, we found that districts with high Latino enrollment propose fewer bonds and overrides.  However, these districts pass their bond and override initiatives at higher rates.  As a whole, these findings suggest that while Latino communities are willing to support education by passing bonds and overrides, they must do so at a greater relative financial cost.

Tax Credits
Arizona’s public school tax credit is a popular source of local funding as schools increasingly rely on parents and community members to pay for extracurricular activities.  We found that the number and total amount of tax credit contributions are growing.  Further, schools with high Latino enrollment receive the least amount in contributions from tax credits compared with other types of schools, and the gap is growing.  This means that students enrolled in these schools may be less likely to benefit from important enrichment activities like field trips, sports, and specialized clubs. 

The State of Latino Arizona 2016 is intended to start a community conversation about school.  If we are going to realize America’s promises for our children, it is imperative that state leaders have the necessary information to engage in an open and honest dialogue about how to move forward.   

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