District Focus On Shielding Classrooms

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First — the good news. Payson schools have done a good job of coping with hard times — and funneling as much money as possible into the classrooms. In truth, last week’s layoffs focused mostly on administration but comprised only the latest effort by the school district to shelter the classroom from the debilitating impact of worsening budget cuts.

A recent auditor general’s report demonstrates that Payson has done better than most other comparable districts when it comes to the percentage of its budget that goes into the classroom. All told, a total of 57 percent of the Payson district’s budget goes straight into the classroom — compared to 55 percent in similar districts. Granted, not a big difference, but it is in the right direction.

Moreover, Payson has managed to protect a somewhat better than average teacher-student ratio. Please note, the official teacher-student ratio is just 15 — thanks to a large number of very small special education classes. In the mainstream classrooms, the average size is closer to 30 students per class.

The figures show that Payson is also blessed by the willingness of very experienced teachers to take less money to continue working with our children. The average Payson teacher makes about $1,600 less each year than the state average — even though the average Payson teacher has about 20 percent more time on the job than teachers elsewhere.

Now the bad news.

First, the share of the budget going to administration and overhead has been increasing gradually. That reflects the rising burden of state and federal mandates and probably the impact of declining enrollment.

In districts that are losing students, fixed overhead costs loom larger and larger. Moreover, in very small districts, administrative costs inevitably make up a larger share of the budget — since even the smallest district needs a core of vital administrators.

Second, schools are still spending way too much on overhead — even if Payson’s holding its own compared to other Arizona schools. Federal mandates are taking away classroom money.

Recently, two candidates running for the Republican nomination for governor spoke in Payson and did school districts in general a grave disservice. They insisted that only one-third of school spending goes directly to the classroom — when actually it’s closer to two-thirds.

Still, we’ve been waiting for years for effective reforms that would direct more money to teachers and students and spend less on overhead, administration and bureaucracy.

Only problem is, state and federal “reforms” always seem to generate more paperwork, require more administrators — and provide gifted teachers and inspired principals less and less freedom to innovate and excel.

So we applaud Payson Schools for remaining focused on protecting the classroom when it comes time to make painful adjustments — and hope that principle will continue to apply in the difficult days ahead.

Spring rodeo parade mourned

One of the hallmark features of the spring and August rodeos are the parades. It would be a shame if the spring parade bites the dust.

The Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee has been looking for someone to organize and put on the parade.

The Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee has put on the parade for more than a decade, but this year they were seeking others to put on the event.

Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee (PPRC) Secretary Ruth Klaver asked the Green Valley Redevelopment Area Commission if it was interested in taking the spring Main Street parade over indefinitely since the 120-member committee no longer had the time to organize it with a spring and fall rodeo to plan as well as several fund-raising dances at the Oxbow Saloon. The GVRA Commission decided not to take over the spring rodeo parade and with no one else available to plan it, the Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee has canceled the event.

The spring parade is not the biggest event, but for those who like a parade it was a nice, hometown event that gets everyone in the mood for the rodeo. In many ways it was a mood-setter for the actual event.

It is a shame that this event, which has been held for the past 11 years, will fall by the wayside. Maybe some organization with the volunteers and time will take on the parade. Time is running out fast, but just maybe someone wants to run a parade.

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