Say ‘yes’ to teachers and mail your ballot

Those who we count on the most are counting on you to fill in the four little blank lines marked “yes” and go to the mailbox. [Viva Teachers]
Those who we count on the most are counting on you to fill in the four little blank lines marked “yes” and go to the mailbox. [Viva Teachers]

That ballot on your kitchen counter — the one you’ve been looking at for a few days. Fill it out and mail it today. Don’t waste your vote.

Those who we count on the most to support our city are counting on you to fill in the four little blank lines marked “yes” and go to the mail box.

If you ask local residents how they feel about teachers, fire fighters, our seniors, our parks, or support for recreation and athletic programs for all ages, you hear people gush about how much they admire teachers. How proudly fire fighters serve. How much you care about our community.

Today I want talk about teachers.

If you really love your kids’ teachers, show them. This time they need you more than we need them. More than anyone, our teachers will suffer if you don’t vote yes.

In the early part of this decade two override elections failed.

State funding for schools was also being cut, and despite stories to the contrary full funding has never been restored.

How were teachers and our classrooms impacted?

I once sat on the school district budge committee. I saw firsthand the painful decisions that were made.

If we fail to pass the override, expect a repeat of most or all of these devastating results.

Over 220 teachers received Reduction In Force notices in just one year. Over 100 of them were eliminated immediately.
Others were reassigned to lesser duties. We had 1,418 teachers in 2011 when the first override failed. By 2015, only 1,240 were still employed.

That horrible number doesn’t tell the whole story. Those with the most experience were most likely to be pushed out and then replaced.

It’s not legal to discriminate based on age, but those who had the highest pay levels were at great risk of not showing up again — something that the former administration should be castigated for having done, but it happened.

Those teachers who remained had their pay frozen. Their take home pay fell as they were charged more each year for things like health coverage.

We passed the override again in late 2014, but the budget for 2014-15 was already set in place. That same year average gross pay for our teachers had dropped by $5,714. Take home pay had dropped even more as deductions for health care rose.
We had increased class sizes. We had cut art, P.E., and music from the K-5 programs. We had even cut a half-day on Wednesdays.

Yes, those same things will happen if the override fails. There is no “fat to cut” — OK, that’s not true — there is a little fat to cut as there is in every budget on Earth. But not nearly enough to avoid the same draconian cuts that we were forced to make in 2014.

Here is one way to look at it. If we lose the override we will lose more than $19.5 million of annual funding.

How would your neighborhood school possibly handle a $650,000 cut to spending? Walk on your campus. Count the people working there.

Realize that 8-12 of them have to be cut if we lose the override.

What will your campus look like after that happens? Who would you want to see gone? Who do you think your school could do without?

What would your school be like next year?

We have regained much of our luster over the last four years despite being forced to wrestle control of the district away from a couple of tyrannical people.

Don’t give back the progress. Don’t push us back in to the darkness of the 2012-15 era.

Say “yes” to your teacher. And yourself.

You’re voting to give yourself a better city and school. Give yourself that present today. Mail that ballot.

Mike Norton is a Scottsdale resident and father of Scottsdale Unified School District students.