Arizona schools may face a financial hit if state lawmakers don’t raise the spending limit

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Arizona schools are facing a significant financial hit if state lawmakers don’t raise a spending-limit by March 1st. Chuck Essigs, the Director of Government Relations at the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, joined us to help explain the issue.

What is a school spending limit?

“When the legislature redid the formula for funding schools back in 1980, they did two things, they put limits on government and they put a limit on themselves. They said the legislature has to adopt spending limits for each individual school district so each individual school district has a spending limit that the legislature sets each year,” Essigs said.

Essigs added that they also added a provision in the constitution that when you add up all of the spending that’s covered by the limit it can’t be over whatever was budgeted to be spent in 1979 and 1980.

That limit has been adjusted by inflation and by the increase in students but, “a lot of the things that students do today aren’t anywhere close to what they did in 1980,” Essigs said.

Special education is something that has been added later on that wasn’t included in the base of the spending limit.

How are we hitting our spending cap when Arizona spends so little on education?

“We were below the limit in 1979, 1980…we’re now at the point where the average student and our schools in Arizona, they have about two-thirds of the revenue available that the average student in the country has. So, we’re low spending,” Essigs said.

Chuck Essigs, Director of Government Relations, Arizona Association of School Business Officials

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