Knecht: I want our youth to have a chance to succeed

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For more than a decade, Northwest Valley legislators have done more to hurt school districts than help. And despite endorsement by the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce of the Dysart Unified School District bond and override, as well as the endorsement by the Peoria mayor and city council members of the Peoria Unified School District override, local school funding measures in the Northwest Valley did not pass.

Clearly Surprise business leaders and the elected leaders in Peoria are more in tune to what’s needed for a thriving 21st century economy than the anti-public school voter who may have had his no vote fueled by nasty, sometimes blatantly erroneous misinformation on social media.

Their beefs were varied:

  • Waste and lack of transparency? Debunked.
  • Taxing inequity among retirement communities? A separate issue that 60,000 school kids should not be punished for.
  • The state should pay for schools, not local taxpayers? I couldn’t agree more, but what about the children in classrooms right now?
  • Poor quality? Not so. For heaven’s sake, visit a school! And, where real problems exist like crowded classrooms and lack of counselors, exactly how is defunding already struggling schools going to help?

The West Valley is slated to be the new growth mecca in Maricopa County, with much invested in the promise of industry and jobs coming to the northwest’s Loop 303 corridor. And what do prospective companies want? A reliable, skilled workforce — the kind that is cultivated in a high quality K-12 system, plus good schools for their employees’ kids, so they can attract and retain the best talent.

The Southwest Valley is enjoying a manufacturing and employment boon like never before with Nike, Microsoft, Amazon and other companies planting stakes. The school districts in that area? They handily passed their school funding measures, sending the message that their community will deliver the human capital the companies need. The Southeast Valley? Passed. Central and north Phoenix?  Passed. 

Those other regions will look more and more attractive to those who want to start a business and/or a family, and who will seek out higher paying jobs that fuel local economies and enhance our collective quality of life.

In these times when an aging workforce is a global concern, a skilled, educated labor force will become a more and more scarce commodity. The Northwest Valley could be left unable to compete.

I believe crucial education funding should be standard, not contingent upon a community’s ability to pass hard-fought, volunteer-led campaigns. And no, local taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the tab for basics that our NW Valley legislators’ have refused to fund.  Yet that is the unfortunate dilemma they have created.

I want to change all that.

I want the Northwest Valley to fulfill its potential, to enjoy all the associated benefits of quality schools in our neighborhoods, and for our youth to have a chance to succeed.

Editor’s note: Kathy Knecht is a former 12-year member of the Peoria Unified School District governing board.

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