On Nov. 4, we will be voting on the future of our children and our community. The Payson Unified School District (PUSD) is asking the community to extend the existing budget override of 10 percent for another seven years. A yes vote to the budget increase allows the district to maintain the current school programs and class sizes. Your tax rate does not change; it stays the same as it has been for the past four years.
In 2004, PUSD asked the community for help to provide a better, well-rounded education for its children. A 10 percent increase in the maintenance and operating budget meant smaller class sizes (22-24); physical education in the elementary schools; more nurses, certified librarians, computer lab aides, music programs at each school, affordable extracurricular and fine art programs and competitive insurance benefits for teachers and staff. This 10 percent budget increase would be funded by a secondary tax rate on our property taxes. Our community voted yes.
Today, PUSD is challenged once again with a shortage of funding from the state to provide a well-rounded quality education. Arizona still ranks 49th in state education funding per student. The national average of annual per pupil spending is $8,973; the average annual funding per student in Arizona is $6,232. That is 31 percent less than the national average.
In partnership with our children, we are our greatest assets and resources. Investment in our children’s education and their achievements has long term economic and social benefits for us all. What can voters do to protect this investment? We need to protect the state of our school system.
Research confirms that small class sizes and high quality teachers are critical to learning. Small class sizes allow teachers to concentrate on the individual student, to give each student the attention that is required to succeed. Smaller classes also provide safety, discipline and order.
High quality teachers are difficult to recruit and keep. In rural school districts such as PUSD, this becomes more of a challenge.
Rural schools face many difficulties in serving the needs of children and public education. Rural schools are typically under funded and lack a steady revenue stream. When funds are based on number of students, rural schools get a much smaller amount than is really required to provide a good education. It is difficult to compete with urban districts in recruiting teachers because of lower salaries and benefits and the multiple roles teachers might have to take on in rural areas. The success of rural education is linked to what the community, educators and parents provide.
Schools, teachers and students need to be held to high standards with the ultimate goal of helping every child succeed. Taxpayers and parents have a right to know that money is spent appropriately to achieve this goal. Expectations of student achievement must be in line with the investment that states and communities make in public education. As research has shown, the level of student performance is directly related to the resources we give our schools in programs, quality teachers and small class sizes.
PUSD has shown that it is financially accountable and worthy of the taxpayers’ trust. Our students’ performance is significantly better than the Arizona average. The quality of our teachers, the programs we have offered, the class sizes we have and the 10 percent maintenance and operations budget override of 2004 has helped accomplish this. A yes vote to continue this will help to maintain a higher standard of education for our community without costing our taxpayers any more money.