Response to ATRA’s K-12 Education Funding Comparison


How Many Students Should There Be In An Arizona Classroom?

A Response to the ATRA Special Report April 2009


A recent ATRA Special Report was released suggesting an improvement to the Arizona Public School System by recommending more children per classroom to make funding cost effective.  However, the recent ATRA Report admits two important facts:

1.    Arizona spends only $6,248 per student–which ranks the state 50th in expenditures per pupil (ALEC 2007)
2.    Arizona has the second highest student teacher ratio in the nation:  24.2 students to 1 teacher (ALEC 2007)

Although ATRA references these numbers in their report, they choose to make some interesting mathematical calculations to create a seemingly logical recommendation.  Basically, they suggest that if you have more students in a classroom than any other state, other than Utah, one simply multiplies the spending per student by the total number of students in an already overcrowded classroom and that mathematical product boosts Arizona to 16th in expenditures per classroom.  Interesting math.  ATRA maintains that “Arizona’s low rankings in per-student expenditures reflects the efficiencies gained by maintaining full classrooms.”

Is there a difference between “full classrooms” and “overcrowded” classrooms?  We think so.  There is a marked difference in how a classroom functions with  25 students versus even 22.

What do Arizona Parents and Community Members want for Arizona students?  How many students should be in a classroom?  One conservative group suggests 50 students in a classroom. Could you imagine your child in a classroom of 50?

What Can You Do ? Make sure your legislators know that overcrowded classrooms in Arizona are not the answer.  They place Arizona at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the country.   The Arizona state constitution requires that the legislature will “make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.” Hold your legislator accountable to improve the education of Arizona students.

5 Responses to “Response to ATRA’s K-12 Education Funding Comparison”

  1. AZMama says:

    Very informative piece.

  2. Former teacher says:

    Just how is the ratio of “teacher to student” figured. In formulating the number of “teachers”, are individuals such as Special Area Teachers and Psychologists considered as “academic teachers” and added to the total of teachers. There is a big difference between 35 students in an academic classroom when just the academic teaching staff is counted and “24 students to one teacher when all certified individuals or support individuals on campus that may work with students, or teach untested subjects” are counted as “teachers”. It really changes the number of students that are really in each classroom with one teacher. Could “teacher” be defined so that the ratio can be better understood?

  3. aenadmin says:

    That is a very good question. We will do some research and give you as precise of an answer as we can get. Please stay tuned.

  4. aenadmin says:

    Thank you for your question — it took us a few days to contact all of the organizations involved.
    We started by contacting Justin Olson, the author of the ATRA paper. He thought it meant all teachers but since he used a chart from ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) we called them to check with the original author.
    The original author, Andy Lefevre, is not a staff member with ALEC but is an employee of the REACH (Road to Educational Achievement Through Choice) – a Pennsylvania pro-school-choice advocacy center. His information in turn came from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) research; when we spoke to a researcher there, they confirmed that their data was for all Full Time Equivalent (FTE) teachers, teaching daily at the school.
    We also received this reply from Andy Lefevre, the ALEC (freelance) author:
    “I was able to sit down and quickly look thru (sic) the Report Card last night. The data points on pupil teacher ratio is what was reported to the NCES. It was calculated by them as total students reported divided by total teachers reported.”

  5. aenadmin says:

    Former Teacher: In reference to your question, it is also worth noting that the researchers involved all emphasized that the pupil-to-teacher ratios for each state were an “apples to apples” comparison…in other words, they used the same definition of FTE employees for each statistical state group and didn’t include some FTE employees (librarians, for example) in some of the samples but not in others.

    Mr. Lefevre’s ALEC report highlights the fact that there are only four US states which have seen a growth in pupil-teacher ratios between 1986-2007: Alaska (0.8%), Oregon (3.5%), Utah (3.9%) and Arizona (31.7%). If you’d like to read more of the ALEC report, you can access their 2008 Report Card on American Education via

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