Democrats Provide Key Votes to Avoid Catastrophic School Funding Crisis
PHOENIX — The House Democratic Caucus provided the key votes today to pass an emergency bi-partisan waiver of Arizona's 1980 Aggregate Expenditure Limit, avoiding a catastrophic $1.2 billion mid-semester cut to public schools on March 1. Passing the resolution, along with the Senate, will allow schools to access the remainder of their already-appropriated 2022 budget but leaves proposed reforms for the antiquated and unnecessary education spending limits for another day.
All 28 House Democrats (with one member on maternity leave) voted to pass HCR 2039 along with 17 of 31 Republicans, providing the required two-thirds majority needed to lift the cap. The Senate must also pass a waiver by the same margin for the cap to be waived. Since the opening day of the session Democratic members have spoken up daily urging the Legislature to waive and reform the 1980 spending cap, which no longer reflects the required technology, materials and staffing needs of public schools in 2022.
"It was inspiring to see our entire caucus step up once again for our public schools, which are the backbone of our communities across the state and the lifeblood of our growing economy," said House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, who co-sponsored HCR 2039 along with House Speaker Rusty Bowers. "The catastrophic result of inaction would have been unthinkable and unforgiveable. Thank you to the parents, educators, business leaders and members of our caucus who spoke up about this every day since December. Your voices mattered and made the difference."
Bolding added, "However, this is not the end. In order to avoid this unnecessary drama every year, we need to remove or reform the outdated 1980 spending cap. No other aspect of the state budget has an artificial set of brakes – applied 42 years ago – that hold our investment in our kids and our future to the lowest in the nation."
Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, a classroom teacher and the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, has helped lead the call for action for the past five weeks. In her floor remarks during the vote, she noted the anxiety and frustration of parents, educators and business leader as they repeatedly pressed for action and a "clean" resolution with no caveats.
"As we are now all very familiar, the override is a temporary fix that will allow schools to spend the money that has already been allocated. Schools have not done anything wrong, and they certainly have not overspent their budgets," said Pawlik, D-Chandler. "Today, I am pleased to be able to vote on a clean bill that will allow schools to begin the fourth quarter of the school year with the funding they budgeted for last spring. And I'm grateful that the students' learning won't be interrupted due to widespread school closures."