Originally Published: October 20, 2013 6 a.m.
I'm writing in response to the Talk of the Town article on Oct. 13. While the bond and budget override for the Prescott Unified School District may not instantly raise student test scores, over time it will provide the resources in the district to improve overall student K-12 performance. So why should we vote for the bond and override?
We owe it to our children and to our community. The article states, "We all agree on the importance of education. No one wants to short change our kids," but that is exactly what the state of Arizona has been doing for 20 years.
We are not talking about a situation where Arizona and our local schools have been feasting on an excess of public money. To the contrary, Arizona has ranked among the lowest in the nation in per-pupil funding since the 1990s. Administrative costs in Arizona are one of the lowest per-pupil of any state in the nation. PUSD has gone on a $22 million diet since 2008. Our tired old schools have gone un-repaired, several of our busses are over 20 years old, and our kids are trying to train for the modern workforce on ancient (by technology's standards) second-hand computers that barely keep up with the demands put upon them. Teachers haven't had a raise in five years, and we lost 18 percent of the staff last year, not 10 percent. Prescott teachers receive health and retirement benefits for themselves, not their families. Unless a local teacher is married to someone who makes a higher wage, they will never save enough to put their children through college, own anything but an old car, or buy anything but the most basic of homes without going severely into debt.
To suggest that teacher turnover is a good thing is the most absurd comment of the entire piece. Having taught for 13 years myself (I left
for better pay) and remembering my first years, I just had to
laugh. Does it also follow that new parents are better parents? That new police officers are better police officers? That new doctors are better doctors? It is an established fact that highly qualified, experienced teachers are one of the most important factors in determining student success.
To set the record straight, Utah, the state that "spends the least" according to the article, does NOT rank at the top of the U.S. Education System. The Salt Lake Tribune reported in January 2013 that Utah had moved up to 38th in the nation from 42nd the year before. According to Education Week's Annual Quality Accounts Report (www.edweek.org) Utah's K-12 student achievement is rated a D+ or 32nd in the nation.
Our Constitution commands that our citizenry fund public schools for all children, rich or poor, from all demographics and educational needs. And why shouldn't we? Broad-based public education is the foundation of a healthy democracy.
Our public schools are doing many good things. In 2010, Prescott High School produced three Flinn Scholars out of only 20 chosen in the entire state and continues to make a strong showing in the most prestigious of scholarships. Go to any football game on a Friday night and you will be proud of the young people who are participating in after-school activities; the young men playing football, the spirit line, the band ensemble, and countless others who are volunteering their time with clubs and extra-curricular activities. Go to a theater performance and marvel at the artwork done by our students in the lobby before being entertained by light, sound and the performance of many dedicated students. Attend one of Mrs. Baca's math competitions and see geniuses at work. Go to one of our elementary schools as eager children are dropped off each day and are personally greeted by their principals.
These kids believe in us and need us. They have a right to the same level of education we received, and better if we can give it to them. They are our kids. These are our schools. This is our community. No, money is not the only answer, but when our children are starving and our house is crumbling around us, we feed the kids and repair the house. We find a way.
Personally, I think I can forego two cups of coffee a month to invest in Prescott. Please make an informed and educated decision. Please vote yes for the bond and override.
Pamela Martin is a Realtor and former teacher in the Prescott and Humboldt school districts.