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Valley schools could see major budget cuts if no action is taken by Arizona lawmakers

School district leaders like Phoenix Union High School Superintendent Chad Gestson hope lawmakers reach a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline.

PHOENIX — Valley schools could see significant budget cuts if state lawmakers don't come up with a bill to override a cap on spending scheduled to go into effect soon.

Longtime teacher Michelle Capriotti with the Chandler Unified School District is not sugar-coating what the cut of more than a billion dollars would mean to schools.

"The impact is $1,400 a student. This is a crisis stage; this has been the most difficult year in education. We're talking about money that pays for lunch aides, bus drivers, crossing guards, para-professionals, and educators," Capriotti explained.

School district leaders like Phoenix Union High School Superintendent Chad Gestson hope lawmakers reach a deal ahead of the deadline.

"This would impact our students and our families it's a bipartisan issue as well, it does not matter what community represent we have a governor and a legislator who says it's important to keep schools open," he said.

When asked last week whether he was concerned about the fiscal cliff deadline, Governor Doug Ducey said he was optimistic an agreement will be reached. 

Meanwhile, the governor proposes more than $300 million of new money go to Arizona schools, though critics say his plan does not fully cover the costs of inflation.

"Money is not our issue at the state level. Our coffers are overflowing it's how we apply these dollars in a way that we're seeing a return on investment," Governor Ducey said.

We reached out to State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman of Public Instruction about the March 1 spending deadline. Her office sent a statement that says in part.

"...Without a fix to the school funding limit, schools will undoubtedly lay off educators, cut programs, and in the worst cases close their doors..."

Democratic Representative Jennifer Pawlik from Chandler is part of a team tackling a solution, in the form of a Bill, HCR-2012 to best serve students and staff.

"It would be terrible if we had to close our schools, not because of COVID but because we weren't able to come together to do this override. The schools have not overspent money but because they've reached the cap, we need to reach a legislative override so they can spend the money that's already been allocated," she explained.

Representative Pawlik added that in order to reach the override, they would need a 2/3 vote on Bill HCR-2012 from the chamber by March 1.

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