I have lived in Peoria for 37 years. Once again, I stand before you to discuss much needed funding. Is it a bond election or is it an override election this time? It’s both.
We seem to do this every election cycle. As a matter of fact, this will be the third consecutive election cycle that will include a Peoria Unified School District ballot initiative. Why do we have to keep going through this? The answer is simple. We need the money.
It has been challenging, to say the least, to continue to do more with less, year after year. As a matter of fact, from 2008 to 2017, Arizona’s public school system funds were reduced annually.
Don’t be fooled by the “increases” in education funding for the past two years.
Think of it like this, instead of an annual salary increase, you get an annual salary decrease. It started out with salary freezes, no raises. Then no bonuses. Then any supplemental certifications or additional training were removed from compensation schedules. Then a reduction in employer contributions to healthcare and retirement benefits. Then staff reductions.
Then, great news, you are getting a raise this year and next year, which brings you to where you were before the reductions started but it is still less than where you began. Would you consider that an increase in salary?
Probably not. As a matter of fact, you would probably would have resigned.
And I must mention our support staff. We did not receive any additional funding for them. The school district does not have the option to resign or seek out a better paying job.
Both Peoria Unified and the state legislature are required to make financial records available to the public. If you are in doubt, I invite you to review the budgets, talk to any teacher or contact our CFO. She would be happy to answer any questions. You are welcome to take my word for it. I have reviewed budgets. I am a former teacher and I ask our CFO questions all the time.
I am not going to get into the yes/no vote debate, except to say that I can understand and agree with all of you, until it is time to vote. I think it’s safe to say that most of us feel that way.
Nobody wants to pay more taxes. I didn’t say, “is willing to pay more taxes.”
I said, “wants to pay more taxes.”
Nobody thinks education is unnecessary. Everybody wants safe schools, an educated workforce and a public education system that graduates productive members of society. We want this to be a shared responsibility that does not place an undue burden on any one group. If the state doesn’t provide funds, the burden falls on the homeowner. If the homeowners do not pass the bond and override, the district will adjust. But it will cost us all. What now?
How do we find a simple solution? I am open to any suggestion that doesn’t involve attacking the character of those who don’t share your opinion. I am not open to assumptions, but rather facts. And I am not open to blame of any kind. I invite all solutions that don’t involve shame, blame or judgment. As a matter of fact, I will commit to meeting as many times as we need to get a solution we can all live with. We are all in this together!
Editor’s note: Monica Ceja Martinez is a member of the Peoria Unified School District governing board.