Arizona schools once again facing ‘massive cuts’ because of spending limit
PHOENIX — Arizona schools are once again at risk of having to slash their budgets because of a decades-long spending cap.
The Arizona Department of Education sent a letter to state lawmakers on Tuesday, notifying them that K-12 public schools across the state will have to cut their current spending by $1.38 billion this spring.
That’s if state lawmakers don’t vote to lift the aggregate expenditure limit, which sets how much money schools can spend every year.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM that means schools will have to slash their budgets by 18%.
Put another way, Mesa Public Schools would have to cut $88 million from its budget, while the Kyrene School District will have to cut it by $20.4 million and the Scottsdale Unified School District by $30 million.
“These are massive cuts,” Hoffman said. “This is the last thing our schools need when they are doing everything they can to focus on student success and accelerating learning as we recover from the pandemic.”
She noted the cuts can be avoided if state lawmakers hold a special legislative session and vote by March 1 to lift the spending cap. Otherwise, schools risk seeing larger class sizes, layoffs and a worse teacher shortage.
“Even just the threat of these cuts is already impacting our schools,” Hoffman said. “It’s limiting our school leaders’ ability to implement the new funding that was allocated this last legislative session.”
Last year, schools were in a similar situation. It’s all because of a formula-based school spending cap that voters approved in 1980.
Hoffman said she wants state lawmakers to repeal it so that schools don’t have to deal with the stress of possible budget cuts every year. That would require a two-thirds majority vote in the state Legislature and voter approval.
“I fully support a repeal, because I think we should be entrusting our Legislature to determine the budget for our schools and giving our schools authority to spend down the funding that they’re receiving,” she said.