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Tucson public schools face millions in cuts if the Arizona Legislature can't agree on override

Tucson public schools face millions in cuts if the Arizona Legislature can't agree on override
Posted at 3:25 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 17:25:05-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A spending cap in Arizona’s constitution is making an appearance for the first time in decades.

“When this came into effect in 1980, it was initiated by ranchers and farmers who thought we were spending too much on public education,” said David Lujan, Director of Arizona’s Center for Economic Progress.

The 1980 cap prevents Arizona public schools from spending more than a certain amount every school year. Schools exceeded this year’s limit by an aggregate total of 1.15 billion.

“The way we educate students has changed quite a bit since 1980, we didn’t have computers and other technology back then, we didn’t have school shootings so school safety wasn’t an issue,” Lujan said.

This year was the first time since the recession that Arizona schools exceeded this limit. But they’ve drawn closer to it every year, especially since the Governor has increased funding for teacher pay, early literacy, and counselors.

“It hasn’t been an issue because we’ve been cutting funding from education for so long, and now just recently we’ve been starting to put more money back in,” Lujan said.

The Arizona Legislature needs a two thirds vote before March 1st to override this spending cap. Otherwise, all Arizona public school’s would have to cut spending by 16%. According to the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Tucson, Vail, and Sunnyside Unified School Districts would lose millions.

“There are going to be layoffs, school closures," said Andres Cano, (D) Arizona House of Representatives, District 3. "All if we don’t have a solution in front of us.”

This is money that was approved by the legislature budget last year. It’s already been distributed to schools.

“School districts had the thought they could rely on these funds, they went ahead and budgeted for this entire school year,” Lujan said.

Democratic lawmakers hope to agree on a permanent solution so this doesn't happen again.

“Because we’ve refused to look at this funding formula since the 1980s, we’ve got a fiscal cliff in front of us,” Cano said.

We reached out to four local republican legislators and received no response.