It is time for the Arizona State Senate “to stop playing a billion dollar game of chicken with kindergarten students.”

Those were among the closing remarks delivered by Arizona Education Association (AEA) President Joe Thomas as AEA activists, educators, parents, children, and public servants gathered at the House Lawn at the Arizona Legislature to call on the State Senate to quit dragging its feet and pass the increase in the cap of the Aggregate Expenditure Spending Limit for public schools.

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The Senate, which is in session today, may, according to some speculation at today’s event on the House Lawn, vote on the measure today.

LD-17 State Representative Jennifer Pawlik, ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee expressed confidence that the Senate would pass the increase in the cap this week.

At the press event, Mr. Thomas thanked the people who attended, saying “as long as you show up, our students have hope and they will continue to win.”

Calling on people to “stay positive and hold “legislators” accountable,” Thomas reminded everyone that the already approved billion dollars for traditional public education that will be held up if the Senate does not act, are the funds that:

  • “are your teacher’s salary.”
  • ” the electricity for your child’s classroom.”
  • “the school bus for transportation.”

Marisol Garcia, the Vice President of the AEA, echoed many of Thomas’s sentiments. She also called on the Republicans in the State Legislature to stop “playing political games” with their attacks teachers and public schools on issues like educators not spending enough time with parents, saying “not a day went by when parents were not invited to my classroom.” 

She closed by stating that teachers and public schools need to “be nurtured… rewarded…and respected.”

Alicia Mink, a parent and instructor, reminded everyone that the monies that may be held back do not just go toward teachers. They go to the school nurses, the occupational therapists, and the maintaining of smaller class sizes.

All of which would be jeopardized if the schools are not allowed to spend the already approved $1.2 billion dollars these same Republican legislators already approved for them last summer.

In his closing comments, Mr. Thomas also stated “I would hope every legislator has read the (Arizona) Constitution and realizes this day (March 1) is important.” 

He also said that, in order not to relive this year after year, “we must eliminate the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) Permanently.”

Comments from some of the attendees at today’s event.

Melanie Johnston, a K-5 Elementary Music Teacher in the Maricopa District commented:

“The AEL cap must be eliminated for this year and, hopefully, permanently. No new money is being spent or appropriated. This just concerns money already appropriated to school districts and (if not lifted,) will force them to to not touch the monies until the next fiscal year…If this cap is not removed by March 1, schools will not be able to spend the monies already appropriated to them and there will be big cuts.”

Educator Jeanne Canteen, a former Board President of the Creighton Elementary District, 2020 Maricopa County School Superintendent Candidate, and current candidate for the new LD-Two State Senate Seat, relayed:

“There are members of the Senate so far removed from reality. They are playing games with children, teachers, and the entire education system. I hope teachers act and vote out the ones who are playing these games.”

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate and former State Representative Aaron Lieberman stated:

“It is ridiculous that its has taken us to almost until March 1 (to vote on extending the cap) that they (the Republican legislators) should have done the first day of the (legislative) session. All of the energy that has been wasted by educators and others on (making sure they receive) monies that were given to them last year.”

After the event, many at the gathering marched to the State Senate to try to meet LD-17 State Senator  JD Mesnard, a current hold out because he is worried extending the cap would influence the ruling regarding the funding of Proposition 208-Invest in Ed.

Hopefully, enough Republicans in the State Senate agree with Mr. Thomas and the others at today’s gathering and will vote to extend the spending cap today.

No public servant should be playing a billion dollar game of chicken with children’s lives in public schools.

Time is running out.

 

 

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