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AZ schools chief says districts could be facing a $1.4B budget cut

Kathy Hoffman
Matt York/AP, file
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman says unless state lawmakers suspend a cap on education spending by March 1, 2023, Arizona's more than 260 school districts could face a $1.4 billion budget cut.

Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction says the state’s schools are facing a potential funding cut of almost $1.4 billion. Arizona’s four-decade-old education spending cap would prevent schools from spending money already allocated by the state Legislature.

The so-called Aggregate Expenditure Limit was added to the Arizona Constitution in 1980.

Last spring, lawmakers suspended it for one year to avoid a major school budget shortfall, and unless they do so again by March 1st of next year, districts won’t be able to spend money they already have in the bank.

Schools chief Kathy Hoffman this week told lawmakers that districts could see an across-the-board spending cut of almost 18%, affecting all of Arizona’s more than 260 districts that serve almost a million students.

"If they fail to take action this will ultimately result in devastating effects to our schools. Our schools right now are very focused on recovery from the pandemic and doing everything we can to accelerate student learning," she says.

Hoffman says the cuts could result in potential layoffs, an earlier end to the school year, larger classroom sizes and a deepening teacher shortage in the state. She’s urging Gov. Doug Ducey to call a special session of the Legislature. But Hoffman and others would also like to see the spending cap permanently repealed, which can only be done by voters through a ballot initiative.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.