Take that, Louisiana.

Oh, and New Mexico.

Both have slightly worse public school systems than Arizona, according to a national study posted this week on the Wallet Hub website (https://wallethub.com/edu/e/states-with-the-best-schools/5335).

Of course, that means every other state in the U.S. scored better than Arizona, which ranked 49th out of 51, if you include the District of Columbia.

The ratings don’t consider the most recent state budget, which featured a 50,000-student enrollment decline, a new billion-dollar income tax cut and few major initiatives — despite billions in federal aid earmarked for education.

Wallet Hub noted that this year’s report (2021’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems, as well as accompanying videos) follows a year in which at least half of teachers nationwide report their students suffered significant learning losses in the pandemic.

Supporters of Arizona’s big income tax cut said low taxes would attract new businesses to Arizona. However, economic development experts say low rankings for public schools could create problems in attracting newcomers.

The Wallet Hub study compared 50 states and the District of Columbia on 32 measurements, including test scores and dropout rates.

Arizona ranked 34th in school safety, but 49th when it came to school quality. The state fared poorly on a host of measurements, including:

• 31st — Math Test Scores

• 39th — Reading Test Scores

• 51st — Pupil-Teacher Ratio

• 18th — Median SAT Score

• 40th — Median ACT Score

• 48th — % of Licensed/Certified Public K-12 Teachers

• 49th — Dropout Rate

• 16th — Bullying Incidence Rate

• 33rd — Existence of Digital Learning Plan

The study included comments from several experts.

Christopher Meidl, a professor at Duquesne University, said the national rankings shows a strong relationship between per-student spending levels and overall school quality.

“More money leads to greater opportunities and greater achievement,” he said. One of the greatest predictors of learning is the training of the teacher.

“Affluent areas pay well, with good benefits and have smaller class sizes on average. That means teachers can assess more accurately and teach to the individual needs of their students.”

Despite recent increases in teacher pay, Arizona still ranks near the bottom nationally and the worst in the nation in average class size.

Frances Marie Gibson, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, observed, “I found that a natural way of looking at your education system is through the C’s of community, creativity, caring, connectivity, and competency. With such C’s find out how the school is the heart of the community. Ask questions such as, do they innovate and create programs that meet the aspirational needs of their learners? Do they create a culture of caring and a system of social-emotional supports for both student and adult learners? Do they have a system that develops and encourages continuous improvement with an all means all mindset?”

Teresa Coffman, a University of Mary Washington professor, said, “The following five key indicators tend to be used most often when considering a school system’s performance: student academic achievement; instructional quality; school climate; graduation and attendance rates; and satisfaction of teachers, administrators, staff, caregivers, and students.”

The Arizona Action Alliance noted that the state’s billion-dollar income tax cut all but gutted a voter-approved income tax surcharge on people making more than $250,000.

“Arizona legislators had a unique opportunity this session,” said an assessment by the children’s advocacy group. The projected $1 billion state deficit instead turned into a $1 billion surplus in extra, ongoing money and a one-time $3 billion windfall, mostly from federal pandemic grants.

Arizona currently spends about $10,000 per student from all sources, compared to a national average of about $16,000. Back in the 1980s, state spending was about average — but Arizona gradually began falling behind in the 1990s. The shortfall accelerated during the 2008 recession, with billions in education cuts not yet fully restored.

Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

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(7) comments

Phil Mason

Arizona still ranks near the bottom nationally??

When k-12 taxpayer funding is ranked including ALL funds including SFB, etc, Arizona is in the top 15 states as a percentage of economic income. In addition, since you want to harp on the teacher pay levels, teacher pay is at the sole discretion of the local school board. PUSD has over $9 million in the bank and the school board could allocate any part of that to increase teacher pay if they simply vote to do so. The combined taxpayer funds in the bank for school districts in AZ in the latest report was $5.158 BILLION. Also, the professor you cite in the article does not even list funding levels as one of the factors in qualifying as a successful school

Don Manthe

"Throw more money at it"?

Did you even read the article?

Phil Mason

The question is: "Have you ever read the official underlying documents prepared and submitted by the district by force of law?" The interpretations of the factual information contained in the main stream print (including the Roundup articles) and electronic outlets are not without bias. It is important for the public to research the source documents and come to their own conclusions.

Don Manthe

Love how carpetbaggers come to town, live off the assets of the community, and then complain about investment in the community that they live in.....🙄

Karl Damm

Maybe, a 3 day school week will make it even better than the 4 day week.

Mike White

The whole premise of the article, that the amount of spending on teacher pay is the main cause of/reason for education quality, is claimed by a (university) teacher. Way too many exceptions for that to be so simply true. At least the article did refer, indirectly, to the home setting being a key to student success. But then it flipped the argument to the wealth of the families, and thus their high payment of taxes going to the schools, as being the key to school success. The real root cause of academic success is the student's attitude toward education. People with a strong, positive attitude toward school work tend to be more successful in their careers, and they are more inclined to motivate their children to be like-minded. Raising taxes does not accomplish that.

Paul Frommelt

So I guess we should throw more money at it!?

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