Column: Why I support the PUSD bond, budget override
For more than three decades I have been a staunch supporter and promoter of traditional district public schools, public charter schools, religious and other private schools and home schools. You may be thinking, "How can that be, because if a person is for public education, they must oppose public charter schools and private schools." While each of these schools may compete for students within a defined geographical area, our community benefits immensely from a rich variety of school choices for parents and students. In my experience school choice has brought needed competition to our education system.
Prescott is blessed to have excellent school choices for their citizens. We have tremendous faith-based private schools, a variety of public charter school options, an ever growing home school population, and an excellent traditional district public school system - the Prescott Unified School District. As a former teacher, principal and superintendent, I can vouch for the education excellence we have in our community, and we should promote our great schools as one of our strengths to bring industry and jobs to Prescott.
Competition is good for our schools because it drives excellence, innovation, opportunities and school choices for children. However, one of the important choices that needs to be the keystone of our educational system is a strong, viable and excellent traditional district public school system, like PUSD. It is part of the very fabric of our community. And there is no doubt, PUSD schools are excellent in many areas: academics, athletics, performing arts and in serving special needs students. Prescott High School graduates have excelled and gone on to great universities, careers and achievements.
In order for our Prescott community to flourish and have a vibrant education system it is imperative that PUSD continue to offer academic excellence in each of their schools. We need PUSD to continue to be a desirable school choice for our families. That being said, PUSD is asking our community to pass a Bond and Override so they may maintain their schools and give raises to their faculty and support staff. And we as a community can say "Yes" and not see our school tax from PUSD rise. The rate will stay the same.
School finance is one of the most convoluted systems in Arizona government - especially in the district systems across the state. Public charter schools have greater flexibility and are not held to many of the regulations facing traditional public schools. That needs to change. PUSD should have less regulation and greater flexibility over their resources. Bonds and overrides are part of the necessary funding needed to keep PUSD competitive and excellent. I wholeheartedly support both the bond and override and will vote "Yes." The buildings need to be kept in better shape and the teachers, principals, staff and yes, even the administration, deserve better pay. I would also like to see less regulation and more flexibility with paying teachers and principals based on performance and excellence. However, that is another subject for another day.
While I disagreed with the final restructuring design of PUSD schools last spring, the PUSD Governing Board did what they felt was necessary and most beneficial for families and students. I have been impressed with the implementation and smoothness of the restructure. The teachers, administrators and staff are to be commended for their hard work.
In closing, I wish to commend Superintendent Joe Howard, Financial Officer Kevin Dickerson and SOS C0-Chairman Krista Carman. I have attended six presentations that they have made in our community. They answered every question and provided many materials and data supporting their positions. Let's remember that excellent schools equate to stronger property values and greater community economic development. Please vote "Yes" to both the Bond and Override.
Dr. Billie Orr has been active in Arizona public education as a parent, teacher and principal, and served as associate superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education. She was recently elected to Prescott City Council and will be installed on November 24.