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The importance of school's spending limit

Arizona’s public school districts will be required to cut their budgets by $1.3 billion if the legislature does not act by March 1, 2023 to lift the state constitution’s school spending limitation. If that sounds familiar, that is because this is the same uncertainty public schools faced last year at this time, and it will likely become a recurring theme every year until the legislature refers to the voters a permanent fix to the outdated constitutional school spending limit.

The spending limit is based on what school needs were like in 1980. That is evident by the fact that Arizona is now hitting the limit every year despite being 47th in the nation in per pupil funding. If the legislature does not lift the spending limit by March 1, 2023, schools will be forced to make draconian cuts in their budgets with only three months remaining in their school year – an unthinkable scenario for schools already facing a severe teacher shortage and crowded classrooms.

Lifting the school spending limit for the current school year will not increase taxes, it simply allows public schools to spend the money that the legislature already appropriated for them to use in last year’s state budget. In other words, the nearly $800 million in new ongoing funding that the legislature appropriated to schools in the budget will be meaningless unless the legislature also lifts the spending limit. That is why the current legislature needs to finish the job and lift the spending limit before their terms end at the end of the year. It is also why it is critical that we elect new legislators who will also support lifting the spending limit if the current legislature fails to get it done, and who will put an end to this annual uncertainty and propose a permanent fix to the school spending limit.

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