Explanations and background from Dr. Libby Hart-Wells
Education advocates in Arizona are warning that our schools face $1.1 billion in cuts this year unless the legislature acts to exempt schools from the aggregate expenditure limit. Worse, we’re running out of time to fix it.
Scottsdale Unified School District board member Dr. Libby Hart-Wells penned a piece in The Mule News detailing the problem and urging action.
“Through no fault of their own, Arizona neighborhood schools sit at a financial precipice thanks to an outdated spending cap called the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL),” Hart-Wells explains. “In 1980, the AEL was added to the Arizona Constitution, and the formula to calculate the spending cap remains stuck in 1980.”
To be clear, the money has already been approved and appropriated.
The legislature can waive the 40 year-old measure by a two-thirds vote on an annual basis and has done so in the past. Thanks to voter-approved legislation, the AEL hasn’t been an issue for most of the last 20 years.
Again, from Hart-Wells: “In 2000, voters instructed the state to invest in K-12 public schools by passing Proposition 301. Two years later, voters instructed Prop 301 spending exempt from the AEL. However, in 2018, when the Arizona legislature extended Prop 301, they allowed the AEL exemption to sunset in 2021.”
With the inclusion of Prop 301 funds in the formula and pandemic-related enrollment changes, the AEL now threatens public schools across the state.
Arizona voters have made their priorities clear by repeatedly approving education funding at the ballot box. Children, families, teachers and support staff need the legislature to act, and soon.
So what can you do?