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Census Bureau Ranks Arizona's Per Pupil Spending 49th In Nation

The  U.S. Census Bureau ranks Arizona 49th in the nation in terms of its per pupil spending for fiscal year 2019. Last fiscal year, Arizona spent about $10,000 per student, below the national average — about $15,700. 

The study included Washington, D.C. Only Utah and Idaho’s 2019 per pupil spending — less than $10,000 per student — ranked lower than Arizona. 

This doesn’t surprise Ron Marx, a professor and dean emeritus of the University of Arizona’s College of Education. Arizona’s per pupil spending has ranked low for almost two decades, he said. 

“What we’ve been doing is the new investments we’ve been making has just been keeping us relatively in the same position to other states," he said.  

He believes this is because state leaders are content with students’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national standardized test. Arizona students' scores have remained slightly under the national average, he said. 

“So my view is that the state Legislature and the executive and the governor and the Governor’s Office look at that and say, ‘That’s fine — that’s a good return on our investment and we don’t need to put more money into it,'" Marx said. 

Some of the results of low investment in K-12 education include low teacher salaries, and high student to school counselor or social worker ratios.

Marx hopes the recently passed Proposition 208, a new tax surcharge on wealthy Arizonans, will bring in new revenue. It’s currently being challenged in court. 

Rocio Hernandez is a senior field correspondent who was raised in the Las Vegas valley. She temporarily left the desert to work as the first bilingual reporter at KUER in Salt Lake City, Utah. There she covered immigration and education stories. Prior to KUER, Hernandez worked at the Associated Press’s office in Phoenix and has also interned for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reno Public Radio (KUNR) and the East Bay Times. Hernandez fell in love with audio storytelling after participating in an NPR's “Next Gen Radio” training as a student at the University of Nevada, Reno.In her spare time, Hernandez enjoys cuddling with her two poodles, sipping margaritas and spending time with her husband.