Act NOW on One of Arizona’s Top Priorities

At school

Tomorrow is Opening Day at the state legislature, and we face some important issues. None is more urgent than addressing the Expenditure Limit for Arizona’s public schools.

Without quick action by 2/3 of our State House and State Senate, schools might have to close by April 1 this spring, a disaster for our students parents, teachers – as well as our state economy. I encourage you to read my op-ed explaining this issue in this Sunday, January 9 edition of The Arizona Republic – and then take action.  Use the links in the azCentral version of the article here – or in the copy that appears at the bottom of this newsletter to contact your state Senators and Representatives and urge them to–

  1. Work immediately to pass a clean concurrent resolution, without caveats, that allows school districts to exceed the Aggregate Expenditure Limit.
  2. Then work with us to abolish this arbitrary, antiquated policy. Here’s a district locator and list of lawmakers’ emails.
  3. Finally, share this email using the Forward button in the next block below my phone numbers with your friends.  (Do NOT forward this message using your email program. If anyone you forward it to that way unsubscribes, that will unsubscribe you from future emails.)

I am both humbled and proud to represent you at the state legislature again this year. Feel free to contact me anytime about your priorities.

Sincerely, Judy

I Never Imagined I'd Run for Office

But as a mom, grandmother, and retired teacher, I couldn’t stand by and watch the legislature cheat our children and parents out of the great education everyone deserves – as well as undercut the businesses and economy we share.  For the past two decades, there has been a concerted effort by the majority party to starve our public schools so they can privatize education.

But the people of Arizona support our public schools. We’ve passed repeated referendums demanding additional funding; and in 2022, despite a long-held Republican majority in our district, you elected me to fight back in a legislature that repeatedly finds ways to undermine the will of the people.

Now, as we face a host of important issues in the second half of legislators’ two-year term, it’s time to run for re-election.

Most of District 20 is Now District 2

Our New District Lines and Number

Every ten years following the census, Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) re-draws boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. They announced the new lines and numbers on December 22.

While for the past 10 years I’ve lived in District 20, many of us who live in what will now be in what is called District 2. However, the IRC also expanded our northern boundary to the Sonoran Desert Parkway that feeds into the 303.

You can see the new district map HERE to find out the number of your new district. (Use the + sign to zoom in to see district 2 and street names.)

This seat will be one of the most competitive in the state, and I’m still committed to working together for an Arizona where everyone gets their chance to thrive.

But I need your help!

Are you in? We need you now! Let’s WIN this!

Donate at the link below, and/or sign up to volunteer at this link.

From The Arizona Republic, Sunday, Jan 9, 2022

Arizona public schools face a funding cliff that could force some to close by April

Opinion: It’s called the aggregate expenditure limit. And its impact on schools could be disastrous.

Judy Schwiebert, opinion contributor

Arizona’s schools may be forced to shut down as early as April 1 this spring.

Not because of COVID-19 this time, but because of a perfect storm of problems with our state’s school funding system. (Arizona public school funding, by the way, already ranks  lowest in the nation).

The irony is that this spring, school districts are running into something called the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL) that was created more than 40 years ago. 

As a result, school districts cannot legally spend the money the Legislature already approved months ago as part of the state budget.

So, districts already have the state-approved money in their bank accounts.

They just can’t spend it.  

Without action, some schools will close

This technical roadblock means – without immediate bipartisan legislative action – districts across Arizona will have to eliminate 15% or more of their already approved budgeted expenses this spring. 

These cuts translate to $25 million for the Washington Elementary district, $43 million for Phoenix Union, and $58 million for Tucson Unified, just to name a few examples.

Districts will be forced to lay off huge numbers of teachers, resulting in enormous class sizes.

Or, they will have to close schools altogether by April 1. We’re not talking about shifting to remote learning. We’re talking closing schools altogether.

Whatever the case, it means even more stress on already stressed-out students, parents and teachers. 

It’s like kicking kids when they’re down

Let’s get this straight. For more than a decade the Legislature’s failure to invest properly in our schools has resulted in such a severe teacher shortage that more than 20% of our students don’t have a permanent, qualified teacher in their classroom. 

And students are still trying to recover from the impact of COVID-induced learning interruptions.

Now, schools can’t even spend the still inadequate funds they were counting on to keep our schools open?

It’s kind of like kicking our kids when they’re already down, isn’t it?

However, this won’t just affect families with school-age children. It affects all of us. Think of the economic impact on our community that comes from laying off thousands of teachers and staff.

Arizona should nix an outdated limit

There is a straightforward solution. 

The Legislature could – and should – pass a concurrent resolution before March 1 that will allow districts to exceed the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL). It requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers. 

Even so, that will only fix the problem for this spring. 

We also need to take the next step, to abolish this arbitrary, antiquated policy. A spending limit set 40 years ago doesn’t work today. We need to repeal it.

Sadly, some legislators are already playing political games, trying to convince themselves and the public that the problem is because of district over-spending. This is a lie. 

The problem is not schools overspending

Here’s the truth:

  1. Districts based their budgets on money the Legislature already approved. They have not overspent.
  2. We changed the rules on schools. In 2000, when voters approved Proposition 301 to fund education for 20 years, they exempted that money from counting toward the expenditure limit.  But in 2018, the Legislature extended Proposition 301, without exempting it. That puts $638 million of funding a year at risk – money that didn’t used to count toward the limit but does now.
  3. Huge things have changed since 1979 when the AEL was created. We should be spending more now because we have technology, and we should make sure kids know how to use it.
  4. Arizona continues to rank dead last in the nation in per-student investment, according to Education Law Center’s Making the Grade 2021 report.

That has a negative economic impact on all of us.  We already see it in the number of employers frustrated by the lack of qualified workers.

Investing in education ensures we have a pipeline of qualified workers and innovators. It allows people to lift themselves out of poverty. It reduces the burden on taxpayers and improves the economy for all of us.

Here’s how you can take action

Tell your senators and representatives to stop using this latest crisis as a political football to score points against each other. It’s time to work together for the good of our children, families, community and the future of this great state. 

Please urge lawmakers to do two things.

  1. Work immediately to pass a clean concurrent resolution, without caveats, that allows school districts to exceed the Aggregate Expenditure Limit.
  2. Then work with us to abolish this arbitrary, antiquated policy. Here’s a district locator and list of lawmakers’ emails.

We have two choices: to allow schools to shut down on a technicality, or to usher them into the 21st century so our entire state can thrive. It’s time to choose.

Please join me in working for the people of Arizona so that everyone gets their chance to thrive.

Donate at the link below, and/or sign up to volunteer at this link.