Letter: Support schools
I am writing to voice my support for the Prescott Unified School District bond and "override" ballot issues in the November election. I hope that these facts will help Prescott voters make an informed decision:
By every measure, the Arizona legislature funds schools at among the lowest levels in the United States. They provide the lowest funding in America, and expect local communities to adequately finance their local schools through bonds for capital maintenance and/or budget "overrides" for funding of daily operations and staff salaries.
Voters throughout our state recognize critical local funding shortages, and provide additional local funding for over 80 percent of students in Arizona's districts. Not so in Prescott recently.
In 2013, PUSD asked voters to approve a bond and budget "override," for the first additional local K-12 funding in nearly a decade. Both measures failed by small margins. Sadly, only 21.6 percent of registered voters age 18-49 even mailed in their ballots. Budget shortages led to two of our community schools closing last year, as well as to further staffing cuts.
Despite recent critical funding shortages, PUSD has continued to be among the highest-performing districts in the state. Our students' test scores, scholarship offers and other accomplishments have been nothing short of incredible in recent years. But this can't continue without adequate funding. PUSD staff salaries have risen only 3 percent total in the past nine years, and are currently more than 20 percent below Arizona's state average. Over 50 percent of staff have left in the past three years. This will eventually impact our students' phenomenal achievement, and dissuade professionals from relocating to Prescott.
The upcoming bond and override measures are structured to not increase current tax rates, maintaining the average homeowner's rate of only $34.07 yearly for both measures.
I urge all Prescott voters to keep our community strong by supporting our community schools in November.