Education crisis: School funding meeting draws 800
PRESCOTT - About 800 teachers, school staff and community members, including business owners, filled the Mile High Middle School auditorium Wednesday night to talk about school funding for the three districts in the quad-city area.
The assembly focused on override and bond issues for the Prescott Unified School District (PUSD), the Humboldt Unified School District (HUSD) and the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD). Combined, the three districts serve approximately 13,000 students.
CVUSD wants a $9.9 million bond, while PUSD is seeking a $2.3 million budget override and a $28 million bond, and HUSD is asking for a $2.8 million override.
The districts' override and bond requests will go before voters in November.
Special guests at the meeting included Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Rep. Karen Fann, and Prescott Valley Commercial Development Group chairman John Markham, among others.
Bennett said state officials need to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to bringing dollars into Arizona.
"Given the situation that things are in, even if we support the bonds and the overrides, these are almost band-aids," Bennett said. "We have got to get out of dealing with education in Arizona with band-aids."
The fact that 70 to 80 percent of school districts across the state are seeking overrides indicates a fundamental problem with education spending, Bennett said.
"No districts in Arizona should have to have an override to balance their books and make things work," he stated.
"We have got to talk about how to not just divide the pie up differently; we've got to start doing things that will grow the pie."
Growing the "pie," he said, does not mean raising taxes; it would be accomplished "by working on policies that will improve the economic development of Arizona," Bennett explained.
"As the pie grows over the next three to five years, most of that growth needs to be given to education."
The Northern Arizona Interfaith Council (NAIC) and "Yes, Yes for Prescott" - an organization spreading the word about the override - sponsored the event.
"We felt we had very strong support from the community," said Ginger Nolte, who works with the PUSD school funding committee as well as the Yes, Yes for Prescott group.
"It would be wonderful to have schools thrive rather than try to just survive."