If you have been listening to the left and their friends in the media over the last several years, you might be under the impression that conservatives in the legislature have chronically underfunded K-12 education. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, and the truly historic levels of education funding actually threatens their soak the rich tax hike (Prop 208).
The reason we know K-12 is funded at historic levels is because there is a constitutional expenditure limit. Next year, we’re on track to blast above it. By billions.
Their pivot has been to attack the expenditure limit, as opposed to acknowledging how much the state is spending. But taxpayers should be thankful for this constitutional protection. It isn’t outdated, and it isn’t holding our schools back.
In 1980, Arizona voters approved the limit. It isn’t some subjective cap that legislators can manipulate to cover up how much or how little is being spent. It’s an objective formula that bean counters at the Department of Revenue use to calculate the limit every year. Funding levels are calculated annually to include student population, plus inflation, plus an additional 10% is added on top. For this year, that amounts to just over $6 billion.
Oh, and did we mention that this funding cap doesn’t include certain revenue streams, as many sources of funding are exempt from the K-12 spending limitation? For example, all of the Covid $$ received from the federal government is exempt from the constitutional cap. The result is that the actual amount spent on K-12 in FY 2022 is $16.2 billion, or $3.4 billion more than the entire state budget.
Even adjusted for inflation, this amounts to the highest per pupil spending in state history.
The constitutional spending cap does allow for a one-time override, but that requires a vote of two thirds of the members of the legislature. That means we can expect early next year to see the education spending lobby, democrats, and the media beating the same K-12 drum that $14,326 per student is not enough.
They will tell the public that conservatives have chronically underfunded education and that they must override the expenditure limit or schools will be broke. But conservative lawmakers should stand firm, push back on the misinformation, and tell voters that the only reason we are having this debate is because the legislature has continued to pump record amounts of money into schools.
The expenditure limit ensures K-12 funding grows at a contained and reasonable rate, provides an objective measure on how much we spend, and, importantly, protects the pockets of taxpayers from being robbed to flood schools with cash. Arizona taxpayers should be grateful that this constitutional protection exists and should tell lawmakers to say no to any reckless expenditure override.
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