Critical need for support of school-funding ovrrrides

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Community leaders from the three cities where Tempe Union High School District campuses are located have taken to the streets in support of an override election, passage of which they say is critical to forestall a multi-million-dollar funding cut by 2021.

Voters will receive a mail-in ballot to submit before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Overrides are voter-approved initiatives that generate additional funding for schools above what the state provides. Budget overrides for Arizona school districts must be renewed every five years. If not authorized by public vote, overrides begin a phase-down with a complete elimination after several years.

Unless renewed by district voters, the current 10 percent override at the TUHSD will phase out by one-third in fiscal year 2020-2021.

“Support of the Tempe Union override is critical to ensure that we can fully support students, attract and retain our exceptional teachers, and maintain property values,” said Corey Woods, a former Tempe councilmember and one of the chairs of the Yes Support Our Schools campaign.

“The additional 5 percent Tempe Union is seeking will amount to $3.8 million dollars that will go directly into the classroom in the form of salary and compensation to certified teachers.”

Other endorsements for the budget override, along with a detailed fact sheet, can be found on the website of the citizen-based outreach campaign at yessupportourschools.com

Elected officials including Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Representatives Kyrsten Sinema and Mitzi Epstein, among others, explain the need for the override, which will continue the existing 10 percent funding amount and will add five percent for teachers’ salaries.

In addition to higher compensation for teachers, the override will benefit students with smaller class size and help to maintain the district’s school buildings for nearly 14,000 students.

To look at specific numbers, the ballot measure extends the existing 10 percent budget of $7.6 million. An additional five percent amounts to about $3.8 million for TUHSD schools, giving teachers a raise for the next four years.

In terms of costs to area taxpayers, the 10 percent override currently is calculated at $47.24 per year for a home with an average assessed value of $204,500. If approved, the 15 percent override would increase one percentage point each year over the next five years, meaning that in fiscal 2022-23, when the full 15 percent increase would be in place and using the same formula,  homeowners would pay roughly $70.86 per year.

If defeated, said Woods, the loss of override funds will result in a decrease of funds that are used for instructional programs and staff to reduce class sizes, as well as after-school, athletic and extra-curricular programs along with facilities maintenance.

The district is known for strong academic standards and historically produces national merit scholars, according to Woods. Jennifer Liewer, spokeswoman for TUHSD, announced recently that 25 academically talented seniors will compete for the 62nd annual National Merit Scholarship awards offered next spring.

According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the pool of semifinalists, about 16,000 nationwide, represents less than one percent of United States high school seniors.

Semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school and have demonstrated leadership abilities along with participation in school and community activities. They mus be recommended by the school principal, write an essay and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Said TUHSD Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Baca:

“We are proud of all of our students who work so hard for this honor. We salute them for their dedication to their education and will continue to do everything we can to support and prepare them for life after high school.”

Information: tuhsd.k12.az.us

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