Here we go again.
Despite the close to a billion dollars in new monies approved for K-12 education, uncertainty reigns for school districts and their leaders.
Because when the legislature passed the 2022/23 budget, they did not suspend or repeal the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) which nearly caused a financial doomsday for districts in the last school year.
Then came Republican State Senator David Livingston who called for a war on public schools if activists from Save Our Schools Arizona were successful in gathering enough petition signatures to refer the Conservative-approved voucher expansion to the 2024 ballot.
With school districts, already with massive unfilled instructors and staffing vacancies statewide, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman penned a letter to Governor Ducey and Arizona State Legislative Leaders, asking them to conduct a special session to refer the repeal of the AEL to voters in 2024.
Please read the full letter below.
In the letter, Superintendent Hoffman wrote:
“The AEL is an overly technical policy relic enacted by voters over forty years ago before charter schools existed or classrooms had computers. In 2022, it serves no legitimate purpose. In fact, 88% of Arizonans now support teacher raises, and 82% support increased public school funding.3 And district schools alone are subject to the policy, yet another reason to scrap it altogether.
School leaders and educators are hard at work preparing for the new school year so they can support the continued academic recovery of students after the past few tumultuous years. Passing a budget in June only to make district leaders turn around and fight for the authority to spend appropriated monies because of an outdated and unfair policy is a waste of everyone’s time – time that would be better spent supporting Arizona’s students, educators, and families.
As district leaders warned earlier this year, if schools are ultimately forced to make budget cuts because of the AEL during the upcoming school year, it will mean closed schools and teacher layoffs – students and families will be harmed. These cuts would be felt even more acutely in our rural counties where school districts serve as major employers. And the blame for these cuts will lie with lawmakers, not school leaders simply attempting to spend the funding appropriated to their schools last month.
I urge each of you to repudiate talk of retaliatory budget cuts, schedule a special legislative session as soon as possible to resolve this issue in the short term, and refer a permanent repeal of the AEL to the 2024 ballot for voters to have the final say.”
The Superintendent is right. More so now than last year because the clock will tick faster now that about $300 million of the new school funds will come from the general operating budget as opposed to state equalization property taxes that Republicans cut out in the finalized 2022/23 budget.
Arizonans would be wise to contact their legislators and tell them to work to repeal the AEL and protect public schools.
They should also remember who did not support repeal when voting this November.