Arizona Legislators Oppose Overriding Spending Limit Unless Schools Make “Systemic Reforms”

Governor Katie Hobbs announced on Twitter that she met with superintendents from Cave Creek Unified, Creighton, Madison, Paradise Valley Unified, and Menzel to discuss the “urgent need for the legislature to lift the AEL.”

Arizona lawmakers are being asked by public school administrators to override the voter-approved cap on school spending known as the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL). The request comes at the same time both lawmakers and the public are learning about the schools’ failures and shocking statements made by the leaders of those schools.

Now, one group of lawmakers is demanding that those failures be addressed, and certain conditions be met before they will consider raising the cap.

“Unless it is accompanied by systemic reforms that benefit students, families, and teachers, the Arizona Freedom Caucus stands unanimously opposed to any attempt to override the voter approved AEL,” said Arizona State Sen. Jake Hoffman, chair of the Freedom Caucus. “Fiscal responsibility is a foundational tenet of good governance, and the legislature has a fiduciary duty to our constituents to ensure that their tax dollars are spent as efficiently and responsibly as possible. Unfortunately, despite years of record high education funding from legislative Republicans, government-run school districts continue to increase class sizes, strip teachers of critically needed classroom resources, and force feed a far-left worldview on children.”

“In politics, timing is everything,” one Capitol watcher told the Arizona Daily Independent, “and it is the decidedly partisan world view, like that expressed by Scottsdale Unified School District Superintendent Scott Menzel, who claims the “white identity” is “problematic,” that has all of us wondering –  lawmakers, constituents, and school board members – about the fate of the AEL.”

Menzel’s Critical-Race Theory-based education philosophy was featured in an AZ Free News report, in which comments he made in a 2019 interview resurfaced.

“There’s a misperception that educational equity is really only for ethnically and racially diverse districts. But White people have racial identity as well, and in fact [it is a] problematic racial identity that we typically avoid,” Menzel told David Spitzley of the Torchlight.

Menzel made the comments, according to AZ Free News, “while he was a superintendent in Michigan,” and “remain in line with his current beliefs, based on local reporting on his performance in the district over the last two years.”

In that same interview, Menzel not only discussed his belief system, but how that world view shapes the allocation of resources. Sounding just like Hoffman, Menzel argued that “money is not the end-all be-all, but resource allocation reflects values and priorities…”

At a time when academic performance is down across the state and kids are failing to master fundamental skills, evidence of the ideologically based allocation of resources is everywhere and causing lawmakers like Hoffman and taxpayers to balk.

As an example, just last year at the request of Menzel, the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approved the allocation of over $200,000 for the new and unproven Prism Mathematics program. The Board is expected to approve an additional $200,000 for the program to be expanded and offered in more grades.


The Prism curriculum asks students studying Linear Functions to “Determine when a melting glacier will cause sea levels to rise enough to flood Miami.” Students studying Quadratics are asked to “Determine the dimensions of the largest possible greenspace, given spatial and budgetary constraints.” Students learning Exponential Functions are instructed to “Determine the number of weeks until the city’s hospitals reach capacity.” Those students learning Statistics must “Determine when the amount of waste produced by a city’s growing population will overwhelm its existing waste management capabilities.”

“Arizona children deserve the highest quality education America has to offer. Sadly, they’re receiving far from it at the hands of government-run school districts. At a time when the Republican-controlled legislature is appropriating historically high education funding, test scores continue to plummet. In the latest publicly available data, only 28% of Arizona eighth graders are proficient in reading and only 32% of eleventh graders were able to pass the state math assessment. Adding insult to injury, these catastrophic failures of government school districts are disproportionally hurting low-income, minority, and middle-class Arizonans,” said Hoffman.

“As every parent knows, there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. Until systemic reforms to fix these harmful conditions for Arizona students are enacted, we must say enough. The Arizona Freedom Caucus stands firmly on the side of parents and families to demand change. We will not sit idly by while the system continues to fail students. It is time to enact systemic reforms designed to empower parents, prioritize students, and support teachers.”

“While some leaders have been reckless with their words, calling into doubt the priorities of their districts, and willingness to spend money on unproven programs and outside consultants; it would be tough for a lawmakers to raise spending without results,” said Carine Werner, a newly elected member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board.

“The Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) should be raised this year to cover commitments made by the districts based on the appropriation of funds during the 2022 legislative session,” explained Werner. “Moving forward as we ask taxpayers for additional funding, it is incumbent upon the district to provide transparency with how the requested funds will be spent, and the measures of successful deployment (meaningful academic progress).”

“We must be able to show how new funds will translate into better academic outcomes, and all spending not directed at teachers and the classrooms should be scrutinized. We cannot continue the cycle of leaving teachers, their classrooms, and academic achievement last in funding priority,” concluded Werner.


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