Fact Check on Red For Ed

June 30, 2019 By Ov!JB8t2sQH5 No comments yet

Red for Ed (RFE) leaders are spewing “facts” all over social media, in the news, and on their protest signs. This article is fact-checking some common claims from RFE for accuracy.


Our sources for fact-checking are  as follows:

  • The “Rankings of the States 2018 and Estimates of School Statistics 2019” published in April 2019 by the National Education Associate in April 2019. (Henceforth referred to as NEA report.)
  • School District Spending Report prepared by the Arizona Auditor General. This report is prepared yearly in March for the fiscal year that ended the previous summer. It contains data on all Arizona districts but not the public charter schools. (Henceforth referred to as the state auditor report.)
  • Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction prepared by the Arizona Department of Education published in April for the previous fiscal year. Both charter and district financial data are included. (Henceforth referred to as the ADE report.)
  • Various reports on revenues and K-12 education prepared by the Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee. (Henceforth referred to as legislative report.) · Inflation factors used are from the legislative report “K-12 Funding Since 2001 (All Funding) (7/10/18).”
  • All other sources will be noted.


All financial and statistical data for schools are reported using a fiscal year, not the calendar year. A school fiscal year is from July – June so that it correlates to the enrollment year. The fiscal year is dated using the June year date. For example, the fiscal year 2018 began in July 2017 and ended in June 2018. The fiscal year 2019 began in July 2018 and will end in June 2019. All data for the NEA, auditor, and ADE reports are published in March or April the year following the end of the fiscal year.

The 20×2020 first-year increase of 10% was added to the fiscal year 2019, the current school year. Reporting and rankings for this year will not occur in full until March of 2020. As such, most reported data is using the fiscal year 2018.


CLAIM: Arizona is last in the nation with a student to teacher Ratio of 23:1


The actual student to teacher ratio can be verified with the ADE annual report. The student to teacher ratio is calculated by taking fall enrollment numbers and dividing by the number of teachers.

Per ADE Report 2018                     Fall Enrollment              YE Teachers                 Ratio

Districts                                                    913,954                         50,493.60                18.1

Charters                                                  190,175                         11,359.50                 16.7

Total                                                         1,104,129                        61,853                    17.9

Also, this ratio is reported in the state auditor report for the districts, where it is reported for the fiscal year 2018 as 18.4. (Small variances can occur depending on the use of enrollment vs ADM or the time of year the number of teacher FTE is reported.)

The 23:1 ratio comes from the NEA report, which has been under-reporting the number of Arizona teachers for several years. The NEA data is the following:

NEA Numbers                                           2016                                   2017                        2018

Fall Enrollment                                         1,062,764                         1,060,273               1,108,259

Teachers                                                      46,010                               45,108                    48,712

Ratio                                                              23.1                                    23.5                         22.8

The NEA does have an asterisk by the number of teachers to note it is an estimate. However, the fact that all three of the most current years are wrong shows a systemic problem collecting and reporting the teacher number for Arizona.

The ADE also reports on its “Quick Fact” section of its “About ADE” page on its website that “Arizona is home to approximately 90,000 certified teachers, with 50,000 working in traditional K-12 schools and 10,000 in charter schools.”

The number of teachers is more than the NEA reports, and therefore the NEA ratio of student to teachers is false.

903:1 Student Counselor Ratio

VERDICT: Unable to verify

Data is from ASCA and taken from the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), which uses surveys to gather data. We are unable to find the data to verify that the survey responses are correct.

: 1700 Teacher Vacancies


The data for this claim comes from a report from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association. The numbers are self-reported from the schools, both charter, and districts. There are 1,693 vacancies, 916 of which were caused by teachers who abandoned their job, didn’t report to work, or who were “released” from their contracts with approval from their districts. The vacancies are being filled in the following ways:

Current Teacher Vacancies

Vacancies filled by long-term substitutes or by contracted agency 1,067.60

Vacancies filled by administration or certified specialists (e.g. instructional coaches) 14.00

Vacancies collapsed in which an existing teacher(s) now has a class size exceeding school limit 131.00

Vacancies collapsed in which the school created multi-grade classrooms 32.00

Vacancies filled by having teachers work on 6/5ths contract (no planning time for these teachers) 449.00

Total Vacancies (As of December 12, 2018) 1,693.6

This many vacancies means that 2.7% of the teaching positions remain vacant. [63,547 total teachers = 61,853 that are filled and 1,694 that are unfilled. 1,694/63,547 = 2.7%]

: Even with our raises we are 45th (or 46th depending on who writes it, though the NEA actually rates it 47th) in Nation for Teachers Salaries


The verdict on this claim is false because it claims outright that even with the raises they are 45th-47th in the nation. As noted above, the raises from the 20×2020 went into the funding for the fiscal year 2019. There is no national data for the fiscal year 2019 since it isn’t over yet!

A true statement is that Arizona was 47th in the nation for the fiscal year 2018 prior to adjusting for cost of living. When the 20×2020 raises are in the reported numbers, Arizona will very likely rise in the rankings.

: Lowest Funding for High Poverty Schools in Nation

VERDICT – Unable to verify

Various reports and claims have been posted about Arizona having the lowest funding for high poverty schools, yet these claims are not backed up by data.

The state of Arizona funds schools primarily through the state equalization formula. The formula weights certain characteristics of the students, such as types of disabilities, English language learners, etc to give more to each student with those certain characteristics. Arizona does not weight income levels; the premise of the state equalization formula is to make access to education equal across income levels so that high-income areas do not get more funding just for having higher home values as they did in the decades past. The formula does, however, give more funding to isolated schools, small schools, and schools that do not have a large tax base.

High poverty schools receive more funding from federal grants than lower poverty schools, which can be verified by the state auditor report. The federal grants target the poverty schools by way of Title 1 (funding of the disadvantaged), homelessness, breakfast and lunch programs, and other programs designed to fund impoverished students.

This claim is a red herring about the school funding since the federal grants target the high poverty school making the needs of poverty less of a matter for the state to fund.

: The funding has not been restored to 2008 Funding Levels


The 2019 fiscal year total funding is estimated to be $ 11,466,237,204; adjusted for inflation it is $10,032,957,554. The fiscal year 2008 funding level adjusted for inflation was $ 10,436,102,642. The difference between those amounts is $403,145,087. So, Arizona funding is $400 million below 2008 levels once adjusted for inflation.

The per student funding comparisons are

FY 2008                   FY2019                     Difference

State                                                      5,229.32                               4,559.44                   (669.88)

Local                                                      3,751.21                                3,207.70                    (543.51)

Federal                                                  1,043.95                               1,087.69                     43.74

Total                                                      10,183.06                              8,854.83                    (1,169.65)

Both the state and the local taxes have not kept up with inflation and population growth. However, the inflation adjusted per-student funding from the state has risen every year since 2015. Federal revenues have remained flat to inflation. The local revenues, such as district specific bonds and overrides, fees and donations, and county revenue have continued to decline while the state funding as increased.

It’s also worth noting that after adjusting for inflation, the average teacher salary will be very close to the inflation-adjusted 2008 if all schools used the increased funding in 2019 to give a 10% bonus to their teachers.

Here is the data of 2008 salaries versus current salaries and also fiscal year 2019 forecast.

20% Raise

FY 2008                 FY 2018                 FY 2019             2019 per RFE

District Average Teacher Salary                 44,967                     48,828                    53,711                58,594

Inflation Factor                                              1.047                         0.891                       0.875                0.875

Inflation-Adjusted                                         47,080                       43,506                   46,997                51,269

FY 2018 & 2019 as a % of FY 2008             92%                           100%                      108.9%

Inflation-Adjusted Raise/Deficit                   (3,575)                          (83)                        4,189

What the table above shows is that if the 10% raise went through as planned, teacher average salary is the same as it was in 2008 even after adjusting for inflation. If the 20% raise that RFE demanded would have gone through for the fiscal year 2019, the average teacher salary would be 8.9% higher than in 2008 after adjusting for inflation.

Furthermore, if the 20×2020 plans to increase school funding by 5% this year and 5% next year, the total funding per student is likely to exceed the 2008 benchmark. Inflation rate averages about 2% a year, and population growth has averaged 1.7% over the last 19 years. Therefore, anything in excess of 3.7% per year will give real increases in the funding per student. (Rates are averages from the legislative report.)


In summary, several key claims by Red for Ed leaders are either outright false or unverified. Even when the claims are true, they need more context than a meme can provide. Lastly, the 20×2020 plan has not been fully implemented nor has the budget increases already given been reported in final fiscal year data nor national rankings. As we proceed to make improvements to our school, we need constant diligence to ensure our data is being used accurately for the improvements we seek.

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