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Schools face "devastating" funding cuts as March 1 deadline looms

AZ public schools' spending limit set to trigger
Posted: 7:36 PM, Feb 10, 2022
Updated: 2022-02-11 07:22:08-05
TUSD would face $58 million in budget cuts in the final months of this school year if the statewide spending cap is not changed.

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona public schools will face $1.2 billion in budget cuts in the final months of this school year if the state legislature does not override a statewide school spending limit—known as the aggregate expenditure limit—before March 1.

Tucson Unified School District superintendent Gabriel Trujillo says his district would face $58 million in cuts.

He says the district's current focus is lobbying state lawmakers to take action to stop the cuts, and that he has not been making a detailed "Doomsday list."

However, Trujillo did lay out generally some areas that would be significantly impacted by the "devastating" cuts, including already-stretched transportation. That would mean fewer bus routes and being unable to provide students rides to school.

He says visual and performance arts programs, music education and sports programs would also take a big hit, while class sizes would increase up to 45-50 students with staff members inevitably being let go.

“I don’t want to talk about those types of things right now, but I owe the public that kind of transparency," Trujillo said. "I owe our employees that kind of transparency as this deadline looms about three weeks away… We’re leveraging the relationships that need to be leveraged in order to make sure the legislature goes a different path.”

As pleas to state lawmakers come in, Trujillo believes action is not being taken yet because several state lawmakers are frustrated with school districts over decisions to impose mask mandates and vaccine requirements during the pandemic.

Trujillo also points to lawmakers opposing Proposition 208, a measure to raise income taxes in order to fund public education. It was approved by Arizona voters in 2020 and now is under review from the Arizona Supreme Court.

Trujillo says that frustration has made the legislature's inaction to this point a political move.

“As a way to be punitive, as a way to show public schools and to show local school boards where their place is," Trujillo said. "And it’s sad and it’s tragic because they’re waging this political war and this act of political vengeance on the backs of Arizona’s children. And that is just wrong.”

Trujillo encourages parents to contact their local state representative to voice their concerns.

The legislature has moved to override the spending cap in the past.

Gov. Doug Ducey has said he has "every confidence" that will happen again this time.