What is the AEL?

In 1980, Arizona voters passed a measure that limits how much K-12 schools can spend in a school year. This was done when the state implemented its school funding formula. It is known as the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL), which is the total amount that all K-12 schools are spending each year.

Why aren’t Charter included in the AEL?
Charter schools aren’t included in the spending limit because they didn’t exist in 1980. However, their lack of inclusion has never been tested in the courts.

Why have we hit the AEL?

  1. Proposition 301, the voter approved sales tax initiative that provided funds to our schools was originally exempt from the AEL. But when the legislature reapproved these funds, they did not go back to the voters to renew the exemption from the AEL, and so these once excluded funds are now included, roughly $600M.
  2. The decrease in student enrollment last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lower spending limit this year even though most of those students showed back up in the classroom for the 21/22 school year.
  3. The legislature has restored and surpassed the Great Recession cuts to district schools, which means we are spending more than ever educating our children. (Of course, this only remains true if we override the AEL)


What happens if funding goes above the AEL?

The Arizona State Legislature can allow schools to exceed the AEL and spend the dollars that were appropriated to them through the state general fund by a 2/3 vote.  Exceeding the AEL is not new money.


What’s at risk?

If the legislature doesn’t act, then district schools will need to cut $1.2B from their budget in the last three months of the school year even though the state has already appropriated the money.


Why should lawmakers override the AEL?

Arizona is in the best economic position it has been in in over a decade.  This has allowed the State to prioritize education and fully restore and even exceed the recessionary cuts.  However, if the AEL is not addressed schools will not be able to spend these dollars. This will result in the largest cut to education in any single year. The cut would be over 16% of each district’s individual budgets.

How can I help?

Contact your state legislators.  You can find your legislator here.

Ideas for messages:

  1. Arizona is in the best economic position it has been in for over a decade, please don’t cut $1.2B for our public district schools which will severely harm the Arizona economy and my child’s education.
  2. If the legislature doesn’t override the AEL then all the investments made in public education over the last several years will be for naught. I hear you talk about all the dollars you have appropriated to our public schools, but without overriding the AEL, this will go away.
  3. Our children have been through enough in the last two years. I would hope your priority would be to allow schools to spend the money that has been appropriated to them to educate my child. Please stop playing political games with my child’s future.
  4. Every school district will lose on average $1400.00 per student. This would be devastating to my child’s academic recovery and growth.
  5. The cut is equivalent to 45 days of my child’s instruction. My child cannot academically afford to go back online or have an increased class size or close all together.
  6. Not addressing the AEL feels like you are punitively damaging my child’s academic future due to political games that I don’t understand. Grown-ups need to stop fighting and start working together to ensure my child’s academic future is not further destroyed.
  7. The impact of no action by the legislature will result in a cut to the school I have chosen for my student. Please explain why you are okay with arbitrarily cutting funds needed to keep my school open and my child learning.
  8. This will disproportionally affect rural schools and schools which are in lower socioeconomic areas that do not have additional funds from local taxpayers.
  9. Republicans were supportive of permanently fixing the AEL in 2020, why have you changed course.
  10. I have heard people say that schools should use the federal COVID dollars to bridge this gap, but those funds were to mitigate COVID-19, provide additional resources for my child, and provide academic recovery. These funds were restricted and used to keep my school going during the pandemic and keep the lights on.  It is the state’s responsibility to fund our children’s ongoing needs.