Children in Arizona are being lost at an alarming rate. Not to abductors or kidnappers, but to an educational system that is being forced to take the place of parents.
With the continuing breakdown of the family unit, too many children are unprepared and unsupported on their journey through our public schools. Challenged parents are either unwilling or unable to provide the nurturing required to produce stable, productive adults.
But children are not stupid. They will not stay where they are unsuccessful.
A new Arizona Department of Education report confirms that Arizona has one of the worst dropout rates in the country at 22 percent.
In a perfect world, parents would be home to greet their children after school and be involved in their education each day. Children would have someone to read to, and someone to read to them. They would feel valued in their homes and have the basic necessities of proper health care, nourishing meals, good hygiene habits, and suitable clothing.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Right here in Payson we have children who go to school wearing the same clothes for a week, who seldom take baths, and regularly arrive at school with empty stomachs. They get themselves up for school, and they go home to empty houses and these aren't high school kids, they're first graders.
But what is the answer?
Our own Gila County is especially in need of immediate action with the highest dropout rate in the state at 32.6 percent.
We must get angry and outraged enough to say it's worth investing in our children to fix the problem and provide schools with what they need to take on this forced responsibility. And yes, money is a big part of the answer, even if it means higher taxes. Despite what some legislators say, our local school districts are not equipped or funded to add the programs and resources that can really help these children without cheating all students.
Local voters and retired residents must be willing to say, "I've raised my children, but I refuse to give up on future generations. And shame on the legislators who have."
Payson School Superintendent Herb Weissenfels put it this way: "I'm very content with the role of educating children, I'm not content with the idea of raising 3,000 children."