Arizona public schools may be forced to lay off teachers if lawmakers don’t act soon

Opinion: Arizona public schools may be forced to return huge chunks of money that lawmakers gave them if lawmakers don’t allow them to spend it. 

Rhonda Cagle opinion contributor || The Arizona Republic

Unless lawmakers act, schools may be forced to repay money they were already budgeted three-quarters of the way through the school year. That could send many schools over a cliff.

Now that the election is over, can we finally get back to the business of Arizona’s people?

When it comes to Arizona’s K-12 public schools, there is important, unfinished work to complete before newly elected officials take office. I’m talking about Arizona’s constitutionally mandated aggregate expenditure limit.

What is the aggregate expenditure limit?

The aggregate expenditure limit (AEL) was established in 1980 when Arizonans voted to create a limit on how much public schools as a whole can spend annually. It fluctuates year-to-year based on enrollment and inflation; however, it cannot exceed a ceiling without a two-thirds vote of approval by the Legislature.

Everything from teacher salaries and books and learning materials to campus maintenance and utilities are included in the AEL. The Arizona Association of School Business Officials notes a few exemptions: state special projects, federal grants and spending within charter schools, which didn’t exist in 1980.

A lot has changed since voters set the AEL


Rhonda Cagle is founder of Leverage Consulting Agency, serving educational and nonprofit agencies. She is a member of the Board of Contributors for The Arizona Republic. On Twitter: @RhondaCagle1

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November 2022