Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman today urged Governor Doug Ducey and Legislative leaders to act now on the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL), an antiquated spending cap that threatens district schools with budget cuts during the new school year if lawmakers refuse to lift it.
“If the limit remains in place without action, we estimate that cuts to school district budgets for this year could exceed $2000 per pupil,” said Dr. Chuck Essigs, director of governmental relations for Arizona Association of School Business Officials.
In a letter sent this morning and included below, the Superintendent called for a special legislative session to fix the issue as soon as possible.
“Public school leaders need certainty they will be able to increase teacher pay, continue to support students and families, and pay staff for the entire school year,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “They need assurances today to allow them to enact budgets and spend funds appropriately as they navigate the unprecedented situation brought on by our state’s ongoing and worsening teacher shortage and the tight labor market.”
Arizona schools received much-needed funding increases last month as part of a historic bipartisan state budget, which Superintendent Hoffman praised the Governor and lawmakers for in her letter. But many of those dollars, including investments in special education, may be at risk due to a 1980 policy limiting the spending authority of district schools.
Uncertainty among school leaders has grown in recent days after a senior lawmaker threatened to go to ‘war’ with public school districts over the funding issue last week.
“Lawmakers should finish their job and provide spending authority to school districts for the money they appropriated last month,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “It makes zero sense to pass a historic education budget one day only to turn around and make school officials fight to spend the money the next day.”
The potential for budget cuts due to the AEL is not new. Earlier this year, lawmakers waived the spending cap after intense pressure from Superintendent Hoffman, district leaders, educators, and parents just weeks before budget cuts would have taken effect.
Superintendent Hoffman’s full letter can be read below.