Arizona is no longer ranked 50th in classroom spending. According to new data, the state comes in 49th.
Arizona's public schools spent an average of $6,472 per student during the 2005-06 school year, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday. That's almost $2,700 less than the $9,138 national average.
It also means Arizona comes in third to last in the nation in per-pupil spending, as the analysis includes all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Arizona beat out Utah, which spent $5,437 per student, and Idaho, which allocated $6,440, for the bottom two spots.
Arizona was 50th in last year's analysis, which was based on the 2004-05 school year and showed Arizona spent $6,261 per student. The state was 49th the year before, spending $6,036 per pupil.
Education experts called the study disappointing but unsurprising.
"I think the basic situation remains the same," said state schools superintendent Tom Horne. "Our resources per student for education are inadequate."
"What would have been surprising is if all of a sudden we were 45th or 44th," added Chuck Essigs, a lobbyist for the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. "It's too bad, but (the 49th spot is) what people would have been expecting."
With a struggling economy and the state facing two years of deficits exceeding $1 billion, experts have predicted this will be a tough year for government agencies to get additional funds.
But the economy will turn around, Horne said, and when it does, education funding needs a boost.
"I believe the education of students is the number one family value," Horne said. "We do value families in Arizona ... and we need to give education the right priority."
Essigs acknowledged that more money doesn't automatically equate to a better education but pointed out things like higher pay for teachers, tutoring programs and small class sizes all come with a price tag.
"Just spending more doesn't mean anything, but if it's spent properly it would make a significant difference," Essigs said. "I think people know what needs to be done, but the money's not there to do it."