Our local public schools in Arizona remain under attack. While the legislature voted to pass a one-year waiver to address the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL) for this year, avoiding a financial crisis that would have forced Arizona schools to cut $1.3 billion dollars, there is currently no commitment in place to ensure this issue doesn’t come back next year.
What is the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL)?
The Arizona Public Schools Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) is a state law that limits the amount of money that public schools in Arizona can spend each year. It was passed in 1980 to set a spending cap for all public schools based on attendance and inflation (it excludes charter schools since they didn’t exist in 1980). The AEL is an antiquated measure that does not account for modern day school finance or the ways education has changed since 1980. The AEL is calculated each year by taking the average per-pupil spending for the previous three years, and then adjusting it for inflation and student enrollment. The AEL is then used to determine the maximum amount of money that each school district can spend in the following year – regardless of how much the state legislature and the Governor have budgeted for schools.
How does it impact our schools?
This year alone, schools across the state would have lost $1.3 billion, if not for the legislature passing a waiver. This will mean that next year, we can estimate schools will be in danger of losing a similar amount of money. Meaning, our local schools would be forced to:
- Close schools
- Fire teachers (worsening an already existing teacher shortage)
- Fire of support staff
- Cancel after school programs
- Shorten the school day
To see how much the AEL would cost YOUR district if not overturned, check out this list of impacted districts.
Didn’t the state increase education
funding last year? Why is this an issue?
In 2022, the Arizona state legislature passed a bipartisan budget which included historical investments in education. We were on the front lines to get this $1 billion investment added.
Education stakeholders were promised by the governor and legislators that the AEL would be fixed to allow these funds to actually be spent by schools.
Ultimately, Governor Ducey did not follow through on his commitment, and now schools are being forced to annually plan contingencies based on political theatre. We need our elected officials to put kids ahead of politics and do the right thing.
What can we do?
Legislators have until June 30th to place a waiver for the AEL for the upcoming school year.