School Funding Deadline is Near: Are Our Legislators Playing Brinksmanship?

As many parents of school-age children know, Arizona schools have a major looming deadline coming up. Revenue to our schools has increased significantly, as has the population, but due to an old constitutional rule regarding increasing spending caps many school districts will need to drastically cut their budgets unless this antiquated cap is lifted.

In Arizona, this issue could turn into a full-blown crisis if not resolved: the Scottsdale Unified School District would need to cut their operating budget by a whopping 17.5% if this cap is not lifted. For Superintendent Scott Menzel, this is clearly a huge issue coming at the worst possible time as he deals with pushback regarding his past statements about equity in education.

So while Arizona legislators will likely do the right thing and lift the cap at some point, there is a strong possibility that some will hold the “wokeness” of SUSD Superintendent Scott Menzel over his head as a sort of bargaining chip. Considering where the national conversation is regarding education these days, with significant concerns about taxpayer dollars going towards an education system that might be prioritizing social equity over performance and advancement, this intersection of talking points and issues truly does come at an unfortunate time.

How will this ultimately play out? Like most issues in politics, there will almost certainly be more kabuki theater to be acted out. We can take a cue from the national debt limit debate currently going on, a situation with quite a few similar dynamics. Everyone knows that ultimately the limit will be raised but both sides have plenty of preening and political virtue signaling to do until then. They need to put on a show while the spotlight is still on them.

In Arizona’s case, to facilitate such draconian cuts to education across the state would be such a poison pill for the Republican brand that there is almost zero chance of it happening. Ergo, everything until then is purely an act, an opportunity to hammer home talking points, and in the case of Scott Menzel to name and shame. It provides an opportunity for Democrats to talk about how reckless the Republicans are being, and for Republicans to talk about issues in our educational system (including Superintendent Menzel). And so it goes.

Timing is everything, and the intersection of the spending cap with the recent Menzel story is extremely fortuitous timing for Scottsdale Republicans. They get to shine their spotlight on this issue and strike while the iron is still hot. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t get in the way of what absolutely needs to be done: raising the spending cap.