Arizona Legislature waives education spending cap, averts school crisis

PHOENIX (AP) – The Arizona Senate on Monday joined the House of Representatives in voting to waive the constitutional limit on spending on K-12 schools, threatening to close state campuses across the state.

A vote in the Senate on Monday 23-6 gave the measure the required majority of 2/3 of the votes in both chambers and takes effect immediately. The vote came after some Republicans who support the measure withdrew from the subscription. All six votes against were Republican lawmakers. It does not need to be signed by Republican Governor Doug Dusi.

Republican Senate President Karen Fan last week fought for the votes of members of her assembly. Some Republicans still voted against a measure that allows schools to spend money that lawmakers have already allocated for the current fiscal year.

“We can all agree on one thing, no matter which side of the aisle we are on,” she said. “We love our children and our children come first. We just need to figure out how to do it for all adults. ”

Republican Sen. Vince Leach of Tucson was a member of the Republican Party who opposed the move, arguing that public schools are not giving away his party for the big boost funding schools they have received in recent years and school boards that require from students wearing masks to limit COVID -19 exposure. He called for school vouchers to be given to all students in the state.

“My parents, my constituents, want to fund children, not buildings, not institutions,” Leach said. “They want to fund children to make sure they have a good education.”

Leach noted that a 20 percent increase in teachers was rewarded between 2018 and 2020, noting that this is a Republican proposal.

But Democratic Minority leader Sen. Rebecca Rios declined to comment, noting that Republican and Dusi lawmakers proposed a 2% increase in 2018 and were reluctant to propose their “20 to 2020” plan. Instead, it was the result of a nationwide teachers ’strike that closed schools and flooded the Capitol with teachers demanding a decent living.

“I feel compelled to break the record – 20 to 2020 was not an invention of Republicans who support public schools,” Rias said. “20 to 2020 happened because of the discord of 70,000 parents, teachers and allies in red T-shirts who came and fought for public education funding.”

Democrats called the delay in adopting spending limits a waiver of a far-fetched crisis that has put unnecessary pressure on teachers and parents who are already experiencing stress after two years of coronavirus restrictions.

Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 45 to 14 to allow schools to spend $ 1.54 billion appropriated last year, which would exceed the constitutional spending limit. All 28 Democrats present voted against, but 14 of the 31 Republican MPs voted against.

Schools would have exceeded the spending limit on March 1 and had to quickly plan for cuts that could include closures or layoffs if the legislature did not act. About 880,000 students would be affected. The cost limitation does not affect public statutory schools, which enroll about 240,000 K-12 students.

Republicans have eagerly approved a waiver of the aggregate spending limit over fears it could breathe life into Proposal 208, a wealth tax approved by voters in 2020 that the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in August if spending exceeded the limit.

A judge of the court of first instance is considering whether this will be the case, but has postponed the issuance, as opponents of the tax say, of a certain decision that the new income will exceed the limit. Speakers of the House of Representatives Rusty Bowers and Fan recently asked the Supreme Court to intervene and finally kill proposal 208. The court has not yet ruled on the petition.

Limiting school spending was passed in 1980 as part of a wave of proposed laws that the legislature asked voters to approve to limit taxes and government spending. It is adjusted every year to take into account inflation and the number of students enrolled.

This figure is based on attendance in previous years, and last year the number of enrollments fell sharply when parents took their children out of school because of COVID-19. For the first time, a special sales tax for schools is also being calculated as a restriction because the legislature has expanded voter-approved proposal 301, but for the first time has allowed its costs to be calculated.

Fan said the 1980 law needs to be revised and she wants it done this year.

“When it happened in 1980, we didn’t have Chrome tablets or whiteboards or any of what we have now to teach our children,” Fan said. “Then in the 80’s we had school textbooks, blackboards and all sorts of things that were not so expensive.”

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