UPDATE: School budget override passes in unofficial results, with 56% of voters saying Yes, and 44% of voters saying No. Provisional and late ‘early’ ballots still to be counted.
On Tuesday, November 3rd, voters will head to the ballot box in one of the simplest elections they will participate in, with the Parker Unified School District (PUSD) budget override on the ballot.
This election happens because Arizona state law limits the budget for each school district to a specific amount per student across the state, regardless of each school district’s specific needs. So the law allows districts to override their state-controlled budgets by up to 15 percent, so that local considerations can be taken into account by the voters. This year, Parker Unified School District is seeking a 10 percent override as it did in 2000, 2005 and 2009, which voters approved each time. This override would fund the schools for the next 7 years.
PUSD says the override will allow the district to maintain many current services to students and avoid larger class sizes as the last override phases out. In addition, full-day kindergarten, after-school tutoring for kids who need it, athletics and gifted classes and other programs are funded by the override, along with offering competitive salaries to attract and retain qualified teachers.
“Data shows that Arizona invests less state funding per student
than any other state in the nation”
The override comes as Arizona debates school funding across the state, with many critics saying Arizona under-educates its young people and fails to invest in education to benefit its communities. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances shows that Arizona invests less state funding per student than any other state in the nation, less than 70 percent of the state average. This has parents and teachers angry, and politicians at the state legislature on the blunt end of the wrath. Governor Doug Ducey has apparently heard the outcry and has come up with a plan to get more money into education, with other politicians competing with plans of their own.
Advocates of more funding say that investing in America’s public school system is to invest in the state’s economy and communities for the future, particularly at a time when other nations are leaping ahead of the U.S. in their ability to compete for work in technology, medicine, engineering and industry. Opponents of more funding say there’s too much waste in government in general, and want cuts. They are more likely to advocate more spending by parents themselves, and less by the community in general.
In the meantime, Parker Unified School District, which is prevented from advocating a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote in next Tuesday’s election, is making a neutral proposition: asking voters to consider the same level of local funding as the district has had for the past 14 years.
The district says the override costs the equivalent of around $12.27 per month for the average property owner in La Paz County.