Sandoval: A vote for the Peoria Unified override is a vote for the future

David Sandoval

The Peoria Unified School District continues to be sought out by families whose want is for their children to be in a safe, supportive and inspiring educational environment, where academics and their safety and wellness are priorities.

PUSD is known for its many programs that influence interests in career paths early on. The district’s high caliber teachers, whose unwavering dedication and commitment to our youth’s success inspire hope, and in some cases, are the caring adults helping them write their success story.

Arizona has an average district spend of approximately $8,296 per student, which is well below the national average of $11,841 per student. The Peoria Unified School District indexes below both averages at roughly $7,331 per student, according to the Arizona Auditor General Arizona School District Spending report for Fiscal Year 2018.

While there have been efforts to close the education funding gap as of late at the state level, there is still more work to be done. It is important for the community to understand this and the need to invest in a system that touches every career path and that positively impacts the economy, home values and crime rates.

Even now that the recession has ended, most teachers have seen no increase in pay, student-teacher ratios have remained at recession levels or worse, and many classes and programs that were cut have yet to be reinstated.

The M&O budget override that will be placed on the ballot in November is asking the community to invest in our youth by investing in the district’s human capital and its programs. As you look at like districts, the majority of their communities have approved 15% M&O budget overrides, while PUSD is currently at 13%. This equates to approximately $4 million that those districts have been able to use to grow their teachers’ salaries.

Research shows again and again that teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement. The Peoria Unified School District has a steadfast focus on ensuring our teachers and staff feel valued. In an effort to do so, and as part of the solution, the district has recently increased years of service as a salary factor from five to seven years. Additionally, in Fiscal Year 2020, salary schedules, stipends compared to base pay, and health benefits will be reviewed in comparison to like-sized districts, to maximize compensation.  PUSD is focused on long-term solutions for making our veteran teachers whole, while being competitive to attract new, high-caliber teachers.

The long-term solution will not happen in one budget cycle. This will take a collaborative effort with the community, district and state to ensure our most valuable asset — our youth — are put in a situation to be successful in their future.

Editor’s note: Mr. Sandoval is a member of the Peoria Unified School District governing board.

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