Voters Should Be Allowed To Decide Teacher Salaries

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Val Dickey's recent guest comment in the Roundup reinforced the notion that Payson, being so close to the Phoenix area, is both a blessing and a curse.


We can drive to the East Valley in less than 1.5 hours to shop, attend athletic contests, have medical specialist appointments, visit friends, etc. That's the good news.


We now are so close in time and distance -- and getting closer as Highway 87 nears completion as a four-lane divided highway -- to the East Valley that we are compared more and more to trends in the Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Tempe areas than we are to the Globe, Miami, Show Low, and Superior areas.


The average starting salary for a beginning teacher with no experience for the 2000-2001 school year will be in the $26,000 to $27,000 range. Both Mesa and Gilbert public schools will probably be holding override elections expressly to retain and attract quality educators via increased compensation packages. Even the cash-strapped Tempe Elementary District is raising the starting salaries for teachers to the $27,000 level for next school year.


How far behind our East Valley counterparts is the Payson Unified School District willing to be in salaries? When will the superintendent and governing board call for an override election to make our Payson educator salaries competitive with our neighbors to the south. There is currently a teacher shortage and a worse shortage is imminent. Pay counts in the recruitment and retention of quality teachers.


Quality education is expensive. Quality personnel will gravitate toward more lucrative locations.

While new buildings, new all-weather track surfaces and modern computers are all valued amenities for any school district, the main asset of any school district is its people.


Without quality people who are paid a competitive, professional and college-degree-based wage, the quality of the education we offer our Payson area youth will be average to above average at best.


The superintendent and PUSD Governing Board ought to let us voters and taxpayers decide via a budget override whether we want to be competitive or maintain the status quo.


We can send one of two messages to our PUSD employees:


1. We value the work you do with our youth and our competitive and professional salary scale is an indicator of our appreciation.


2. We value the work you do with our youth, enjoy our fresh mountain air and our small-town charm, but don't expect competitive, professional educator compensation.


Which one of these messages will the tax-paying residents select if given the choice in an override election?


Richard K. Mesgar, Ed.D.

Payson

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