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Understanding Navajo K–12 Public School Finance in Arizona Through Tribal Critical Theory

by David G. Martinez, Oscar Jiménez-Castellanos & Victor H. Begay - 2019

Background/Context: Currently, Native American education policy reports and empirical research papers have largely focused on sociocultural challenges to Native sovereignty and the policy that impedes Native sovereign states. This paper deviates from that theme by implicating policy as preventing improvement of educational outcomes by proxy of the fiscal revenue available to reservation schools, focusing specifically on the Navajo Nation. To date, this is the first empirically driven, Native-specific school finance study that attempts to compare how Anglo and Native schools are funded and how the quality and dispersion of this funding affects Native education and outcomes.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study reports on a longitudinal descriptive analysis of school fiscal revenue (2006–2012), comparing Navajo K–12 school districts against Arizona public school districts. This empirical research paper attempts to answer the following questions: • How did Navajo K–12 public school district demographics compare to those of Arizona public school districts from 2006 to 2012? • How did Navajo K–12 public school districts perform academically compared to Arizona public school districts from 2006 to 2012? • How did Navajo public school district tax rates and assessed property valuation compare to those of Arizona public school districts from 2006 to 2012? • How did Navajo public school district revenues compare to those of Arizona public school districts from 2006 to 2012?

Research Design: This research study is a univariate statistical analysis (i.e., mean, median, standard deviation, range, and percentile) examining general descriptions of individual fiscal revenue variables for schooling.

Data Collection and Analysis: The data comprised publicly available Arizona Department of Education Excel files (Excel v14.0) merged into one consolidated dataset imported to SPSSv22.0. Our analysis began by selecting Navajo public school districts from our dataset and then comparing them to Arizona public districts (excluding Navajo and nontraditional LEA districts) from 2006 to 2012.

Findings/Results: This study has two conclusions: (a) There is a clear and growing achievement gap between Navajo and Arizona districts; and (b) Our results seem to suggest that Arizona’s equalization formula is not effectively counterbalancing the impact of local property wealth, as shown by the disparities in combined state and local revenue between Navajo K–12 school districts and Arizona districts.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The findings in this study indicate that Arizona must address policy and practice in order to remedy the educational disparity between Navajo students and their non-Navajo peers. Navajo Nation schools require agency to designate priorities and state funding to meet these priorities.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 5, 2019, p. 1-34
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22656, Date Accessed: 9/23/2021 8:21:38 PM

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About the Author
  • David Martinez
    University of South Carolina
    E-mail Author
    DAVID G. MARTINEZ, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policies in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina. He has worked extensively in marginalized, LatinX, and Native American communities as an advocate, researcher, and teacher. His research focuses on the impact of school finance policy and state, local, and federal fiscal capacity on the lives of traditionally marginalized, underrepresented students of diverse language, race, national origin, and culture. His current research projects include an examination of ELL funding utility and operationalization, a comparison of graduation-rate proxy calculations in Florida, and an analysis of tax policy on fiscal capacity in South Carolina.
  • Oscar Jiménez-Castellanos
    Santa Clara University
    E-mail Author
    OSCAR JIMÉNEZ-CASTELLANOS, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and Founding Director of Latinx Education Research Center (LERC) and Director of the Educational Leadership Program at Santa Clara University. Previously he was an assistant professor (2008-2014) and associate professor (2014-2018) in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University (ASU). He also served as a Visiting Scholar in the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley with a courtesy affiliation in the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) at Stanford University in 2016-17. He has published extensively in the area of K-12 education finance, policy and parent engagement and its impact on opportunity, equity and outcomes in low-income ethnically and linguistically diverse communities.
  • Victor Begay
    North Idaho College
    E-mail Author
    VICTOR H. BEGAY’s cultural history begins with the his tribal clans: ÁshĮĮhíí (Salt People Clan), Táchii’niiRed (Running Into The Water People Clan), Naakaidine’é (Mexican Clan), and Kiyaa’áanii (Towering House People Clan). Dr. Begay has assisted as a mentor in linguistically, culturally, historically, and socioeconomically diverse communities, including Native American communities, for over 10 years. Through this service to his community he has provided positive encouragement and motivation through sharing of personal connections with traditional values and contemporary ideas and has worked to engage native students in native languages, language familiarity, career preparedness, college preparedness, and financial readiness. His research interests include identity development, education policy, and American Indian students in off-reservation public schools. Dr. Begay served as the Arizona State Chapter president of the National Association for Multicultural Education.
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