Column: Why we can’t afford not to vote YES on Prop 123
Albert Einstein once said, “I never teach my pupils, I only provide them the conditions in which they can learn.” PUSD is trying to provide the environment in which the children of Prescott can learn. Arizona’s state government has certainly done very little to assist in this effort since, at least, the 1990s. Nonetheless, PUSD has overcome and wrestled with its dwindling budget while continuing to provide good conditions for learning. Thanks to Prescott voters, a bond and override was passed in 2015 that allows for major repairs to PUSD buildings and salary increases for PUSD teachers. Whether 123 passes or fails, the PUSD voter–approved override will use 4.6 percent of the maintenance and operation budget to provide a raise for all PUSD staff. This should bring PUSD teachers from 22 percent below the average state teacher pay to 17 percent below the average state teacher pay. Whether 123 passes or fails, the PUSD voter–approved $15 million bond will provide for essential needs in building renewal, buses and technology.
However, Prop 123 will affect our local schools in a major way. Unfortunately, PUSD must make more cuts next year to its already very small budget. However, if Prop 123 does not pass, the amount cut from PUSD budget will be substantially more.
John Lamerson, and the Citizen Tax Committee, wrote a misleading and inaccurate letter to the Courier about Prop 123 and PUSD. Mr. Lamerson claims that Prop 123 will raise salaries for teachers. Not in Prescott. PUSD is considered a declining enrollment district due to our retirement population and a new charter school that opened to grades K-5 last year. If Prop 123 passes, it will mean fewer teacher and staff cuts for our district, but not raises.
Yes, if Prop 123 passes the distribution of funds rests with the Superintendent and the School Board. Members of the School Board were elected by the citizens of Prescott to oversee the management of funds. This local control is appropriate and within the duties of our elected officials. Of course, the passage of 123 only means PUSD is cutting less from its budget, so any worries about discretionary spending are unnecessary.
Mr. Lamerson seems to complain that PUSD’s staff is 50 percent teachers. Is there a school district in this country that doesn’t have 50 percent of their staff as custodians, cafeteria employees, secretaries, bus drivers and teacher aids? A school district cannot run on teachers alone. Mr. Lamerson claims that PUSD personnel received an 8 percent raise in the past two years. This is completely false. Two years ago, the district cut deeply to give a 1 percent raise to help curb the loss of teachers (50 percent in three years). Next year, the voter approved override will allow an approximate 4.6 percent raise depending on the amount of money cut from PUSD’s total Maintenance and Operation budget. Even so, PUSD is 17 percent below the state in salaries with all of these “raises.”
Mr. Lamerson wrote, “It is clear the school system expects a great deal more of additional funding.” Yes, sir, you are correct. Districts have been shorted millions of dollars, have survived on shoestring budgets, cut teachers and closed schools all because our government neglected to fulfill its obligation to fund schools. Mr. Lamerson is concerned about violating the Enabling Act of 1910 – what about the Arizona Constitution? Our constitution calls for a publicly funded education. Shouldn’t we all be concerned about that? In order for that to even begin to happen – we must vote yes on Prop 123.
I agree with Mr. Lamerson, put aside your emotions and vote based on the facts. The facts are:
If Prop 123 passes, $678,348 will be added to PUSD’s yearly budget.
If Prop 123 fails, $0 will be added to PUSD’s yearly budget.
Due to declining enrollment, PUSD must reduce its budget by $1.8 million for 2015-16.
If Prop 123 passes, the reduction will be reduced to $1.2 million.
We can’t afford not to vote YES on Prop 123.
Krista Carmen is a resident of Prescott.