APS Priorities Upside Down? Follow the Money! Instruction Down 8% and G&A Spending Up 12%

When you want to understand an organization’s priorities, follow the money. While you may hear a lot of nice sounding statements about their priorities, the spending trends will tell you if they are putting their “money where their mouth is”.

First, a bit of context is necessary. I think we can all agree that spending should generally follow enrollment trends. APS is projecting that enrollment will decline in FY13 by 6.2% and enrollment is down nearly 5% since FY09. Common sense would say that prudent fiscal management would result in spending decreases consistent with student enrollment. So let’s take a look at how APS is doing from a “common sense” fiscal perspective since last year and over five years.

The table below presents the spending in the General Fund by major category, the changes in dollar amounts and percent from FY12 and from FY09 (five year trend) and the percent of the total for each major spending category. And now you can see the reason for the long post yesterday on who the constituents of APS are and how they should rank in the hierarchy. Given the trends in spending, the priorities of APS are becoming crystal clear.

The top priority should be direct instruction as this represents the moneys being spent on student learning. However, while enrollment is coming down by 6.2%, the spending on student learning has decreased by 7.8%. Over the last five years, the trend is even more alarming – enrollment down 4.9% while spending decreased 13.5%.

So if the spending priority is not the students, where is the money going? Why of course where it is most needed – to General Administration spending! Enrollment is down 6.2% and General Administration spending is up $6.0 million or 11.8%. This is not good.

So maybe something else is going on that shows up in the spending for each category as a percent of the total. Unfortunately, based on the “put your money where your mouth is” principle, this confirms the APS priorities noted above. As a percent of total spending, Direct Instruction represents 55.8% which is down 2.1% since last year and down 3.9% over the last five years. On the other hand, General Administration spending as a percent of the total is 10.8% – up 1.6% from last year and 1.0% over five years.

As taxpayers and parents – do you agree with the Board of Education regarding the changing priorities as measured by where the money is being spent? Or are their priorities upside down?

I know my answer to the questions above. Tell me yours in the comments.

Note: I will go into much further depth for each category in future posts. Additionally, the spending in the table does not include spending on Charter Schools as each has their own administration functions.

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