Scottsdale Unified School District, Found Money?

It’s not really “found,” more like plundered by the State Legislature and ordered by the courts to be returned. But I’m glad to see this issue a little closer to resolution and to see more attention being paid by the Republic via this recent article

Scottsdale candidates detail how they would spend inflation money

Mary Beth Faller, The Republic |

A long-standing lawsuit challenging Arizona’s school funding inched further along last month, when a judge ruled the state must pay $317 million to district and charter schools this fiscal year.

The courts had already determined that Arizona shorted the public-school system during the Great Recession by not fully covering inflation costs, which is required under the voter-approved Proposition 301. A judge ruled in July the state would have to pay $1.6 billion over five years to catch schools up to where they should be under the formula. And on Aug. 22, the judge ruled the first payment is due now.

Here is how the four candidates for the Scottsdale Unified School District governing board answered the question: If the Legislature releases the inflation funding to the public schools as the courts have ordered, how should Scottsdale spend the money?

Kim Hartmann

First, the adage of “never count your chickens before they are hatched” should be cautiously observed. Although I am hopeful and believe the inflation funding is lawfully due to our public schools, we cannot spend dollars before we have them.

Regardless of this outcome, our district must find creative new ways, such as collaborative public/private partnerships, to: 1) attract, retain and competitively compensate the very best teachers (this is an important priority, as many of our SUSD teachers have not received a raise in several years); 2) recognize that an investment in professional development with the latest conventions is a prerequisite to excellent student performance; 3) foster classroom innovation that results in higher student performance; 4) reduce classroom size and explore new classroom models (including enabling technologies); 5) ensure every student graduates competitive, college or career-ready.

I will utilize my talents and experience to achieve these important goals and support the SUSD mission to engage, empower and educate every child, every day.

Pam Kirby

In the classroom. If more revenue becomes available, the best way to allocate it is to work to improve the classroom experience and maximize the effectiveness of the education the district is providing to our children.

Laddie Guy Shane

The money comes from when the voters approved Proposition 301. The proposition states the money would go to maintenance and operations and teacher compensation. I would put the money into restoring our extracurricular programs and teacher pay. We need to reward teachers for their hard work and restore programs that have been cut, first and foremost.

With community support we should take whatever is left over and put it into programs that are unique to the communities in SUSD and set money into reserves so that we can have money ready in case we fall into any shortfalls in the future. We must design a budget that is priority-based and fiscally responsible. It is time to stop wasting tax dollars and have full transparency of our expenses.

Francesca Thomas

Research shows that the most important factor in a child’s success in the classroom is the caliber of his teacher, so, I would love to see a significant portion of any recuperated inflation funds be directed toward teacher salaries and teacher training.

In the last few years, SUSD teachers have seen their paychecks frozen, and almost all funding for professional development has evaporated. If we expect excellence in the classroom, we must empower teachers not just with good curricular and teaching tools, but also with time to collaborate with peers in a meaningful manner, and compensation that both recognizes the value of their work and is sufficient to make teaching a desirable profession.

Professional development, or continuing education in teaching, often is overlooked in funding and budget discussions. Yet research shows that teachers who receive substantial professional development can improve students’ scores on tests by as much as 21 percentile points, and has the greatest impact on students who struggle. An excellently trained teacher, who is able to collaborate with her peers to maximize her effectiveness and that of her lessons, and constantly seeks to improve herself through continuing education, is a teacher who will most positively impact a student’s learning.

Our goal is to engage, educate and empower every student, every day. If the inflation funds ever materialize, we should put our money where our mission is.

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