I am honored to address our Prescott Community on Veterans Day. Our schools, like our community, carry great gratitude and respect for those who have served our country and preserved our freedom. Throughout a PUSD student’s pK-12 career, there are countless lessons, projects and curriculums focusing on the work of our American soldiers and the freedom that they have continually won for our country.
Quite likely, many of us are still recovering from the long election season and final results. For PUSD, it was a bittersweet election. While saying goodbye to longtime Governing Board members Tina Seely and Scott Hicks, we are excited to welcome Kara Woods and Andy Fraher beginning January 1. Additionally, who could not be thrilled about welcoming the one and only John Mackin back for a third term on the PUSD Board?
And much more bitter, PUSD lost it’s override question, resulting in a cut of nearly one million dollars per year from our budget. Proposition 208 passed and will supplement some of that loss. I see it much like the “Red for Ed” teacher strikes that resulted in 20 x 2020. Because the State of Arizona had no plan to get Arizona education out of the bottom of the nation for per pupil funding, it was done by the voters. This was grassroots action born out of inaction of our Governor and Legislature. This inaction and 30 years of underfunding of education in Arizona is why school districts across the state are forced to run bonds and overrides – just to stay in the game. Those who lose are simply at the very bottom of the nation in terms of resources for students and teachers.
While 208 may give our teachers a much needed raise, the rest of the state will also receive that (also much needed.) This leaves PUSD teachers over $6,000 below the Arizona average salary, and over $16,000 below the national teacher average salary. We have lived through this before and the result was that we lost over half of our teaching staff in a span of just a few years. Even so, I am so proud of our Prescott teachers who have never missed a beat in giving their students the very best models of teaching and learning. Prescott continues to thrive in education, on the backs of our teachers.
A few of our citizens were honest enough to let me know that because they were unhappy that we had not brought our students back to full in-person learning during COVID, they were voting against our override. Our answer was simple. To even talk about those two items in the same conversation, or to imply that we would consider making decisions about our students’ and staff health and well being based on a need for money, would be not only against our values, but corrupt.
Like always, PUSD will move forward and continue to provide an amazing experience for Every Child, Every Day. I believe our teacher quality is as good or better than you can find anywhere. I believe that sectors of our community like the PUSD Foundation, the Yavapai County Education Foundation, our The Jewish Community Foundation, Rotarians, Kiwanis friends, our faith based organizations, and our volunteer base of over 800 people are the among the most supportive and generous people you will find in any community. Our PUSD Education Foundation was born out of the failed 2013 bond and override and are approaching $1,000,000 of fundraising for our students and teachers in just over five years.
As always, the students will not know that an override failed because our teachers sacrifice their own well-being for our students. But if we cannot support our teachers locally, could we address the problem at its root? It is the constitutional job of the State to fund its schools adequately. For too long, Arizona schools have relied on their local taxpayers for support. I urge you to speak up and demand that education become a top priority in Arizona; not just in word, but in action. How about a strategic 10 year plan to fund education in Arizona with a goal to reach “average”? Is anyone else tired of being last? I can tell you our teachers are. Our children deserve better.