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Unforgettable Couple of Weeks for Education

by | Apr 30, 2018

It has been an unforgettable couple of weeks for education in Arizona.

Many of you may have followed our Prescott Schools compromise this week, where our schools remained open with a late start and an early delay. The plan was that teachers and community use this time to go down to the square and bring attention to the dire need for funding in our Arizona Education system. We think this went well, with hundreds of teachers, parents, citizens, and retirees showing up in red. At the same time, we set up systems to allow 25% of our staff at each school to take time off to go to the capitol, where thousands gathered for the same reason.

Superintendent Joe Howard and wife Jenna at Courthouse Plaza

Joe and Jenna Howard at the Courthouse Plaza

The compromise was not easy for anyone involved. A good friend with lots of experience in education and compromises reminded me that compromises, in general, result in everyone being a bit mad. It makes sense if you think about it. Our teachers and staff were and are in a tough spot. We all want to bring attention to the fact that funding in Arizona for education is simply unacceptable as it is currently set up. I did say this directly to the governor in his office just a few weeks ago. He listened respectfully. But the tough spot that teachers are in has to do with comments regarding caring about kids. Any insinuation that these folks do not care about kids, in any way, should be taken on and corrected. This week, we had teachers across the state, and also from Prescott, leaving their job to stand up at the state capitol. They did this because they care about kids. We also had teachers stay and teach after demonstrating at the courthouse square. They did this because they care about kids.

The crux of our compromise was certainly about caring for kids. But, equally, it was about honoring this community who has strongly supported our school district. A handful of years ago, this wasn’t necessarily the case. Declining enrollment and closing schools was translated to failure. But in the last few years, our community has strongly come around to see that there are amazing things happening in our schools. You passed a small bond and override to help us to live to see another day. Our Rotary clubs and our Kiwanis, as well as many others, are unbelievably giving to our schools. Our very own PUSD Education Foundation has put nearly $200,000 into our classrooms in less than three years. And just last week, the Jewish Community Foundation of Prescott handed us a check for over $41,000 to Granite Mountain School for band instruments. Prescott Community: we would not have survived without you. I can tell you all that this was the focus of the 20+ educators that created the idea for the compromise.

While we could not be more grateful to our community for the unbelievable support, the funding in Arizona is not sustainable. We cannot supplement that through our local organizations. And the bottom line is this: Prescott Schools have provided an incredible education for our students in the most dire of economies not by miracle, but on the backs of hard working and underpaid teachers. This is not sustainable. At the end of this school year, we are still 2000 teachers short in our classrooms in Arizona, as we have been all year. The best thing we can do is keep our great teachers in front of our kids. We need a reliable revenue source to make that happen. We are done being last.

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