Arizona schools chief Kathy Hoffman again urges Legislature to waive spending cap
PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman is again calling on the state legislature to waive a cap that limits the spending of money already allocated to school districts.
Hoffman said the issue is once again causing concern for school leaders as a Republican state lawmaker threatened to use the cap as a tool against a citizen-driven referendum that would put a pause on the recently-passed voucher expansion and send it to the ballot for voters to decide.
“This should not be a wedge issue when it comes to funding our districts,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday. “Our districts need to have adequate funding for operations, for salaries.
“This should have been taken care of this last legislative session.”
Voters in 1980 passed what is known as the aggregate expenditure limit, which restricts how much K-12 district schools could spend during an academic year.
The Arizona Legislature voted in February to suspend the cap for a year, which would have resulted in a cut of $1.5 billion from budgets across the state.
Arizona’s schools chief is asking Gov. Doug Ducey to formally initiate a special legislative session to fix the issue that could, if not waived again, result in an anticipated amount of more than $2 billion being cut from budgets across the state.
“That would be completely devastating, especially to our rural schools but really to all schools,” Hoffman said.
“It would lead to massive layoffs of staff and potentially even shorter school years because there just simply would not be enough money for our schools to operate.”
The spending cap is also putting a damper on the more than $500 million of new base funding for education included in the recently-passed bipartisan state budget, which Hoffman called “a big win.”
“It was a huge success, a big win for our schools,” Hoffman said.
“But now as they are looking, they are very interested to make raises for educators, but what we need right now is stability and with this spending cap that is looming over our schools, there is a lot of angst and concern about budgeting that funding because it could be cut down the road.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Shira Tanzer contributed to this report.
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