Local superintendents say Prop 204 funds badly needed
Public school superintendents agree that the passing of Proposition 204, referred to as the Quality Education and Jobs initiative, is desperately needed in order to maintain and continue to improve the level of education in the Yuma area.
“If we're really going to invest in our children and in our future, it's absolutely critical that we invest in the best education programs that we can provide for those young people,” said Crane Elementary School District Superintendent Bob Klee.
He shared that with almost $1 billion in cuts to this year's education budget, the funds generated from an increase in taxes would help to restore funds to districts.
“If 204 were to pass, we would receive about $600 per student in additional state funding and that's a significant amount of money — the sad thing is, that would actually bring us back to the funding level that we were at in 2007-2008 because of the cuts that have taken place over the last four and five years.”
Klee said that they would use the funds to restore all-day kindergarten throughout the district, help to decrease class sizes and look at salary increases for employees.
He added that if the proposition fails, it will be detrimental to schools in the Crane district, especially if the legislature makes any additional cuts.
“If we continue to cut budgets, class sizes will probably continue to go up and we will unfortunately probably be considering offering less and less programs for students and getting down to just the very basics — unfortunately that's the reality of it.”
Klee said that some of the only places left to cut their school budgets would be in areas of soft capital and capital outlay funds, which are funds used to repair buildings and purchase computers and buses.
With no funding from the School Facilities Board for many years to make building renovations, he noted that buildings will become more run down.
“We do everything that we possibly can to keep our buildings up to speed and safe for all of our students but so many dollars only go so far,” he said.
Yuma Elementary School District 1 Superintendent Darwin Stiffler agreed that Prop 204 would help to relieve chronic underfunding of education in the state. Arizona currently ranks 48th among all states in per pupil funding for education, he said.
If passed, Stiffler said that the funding would provide an estimated $5 million back to District 1.
“These funds would restore about half of the cuts District 1 has suffered over the last five years as the state legislature cut education funding by 21.8 percent from 2008 to 2013 according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This was the highest percentage cuts of any state in the nation,” he said.
“This initiative also seeks to prevent even further cuts to education funding when the current temporary one cent sales tax expires in 2013.”
According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the measure would use the projected $1 billion raised by revenue for the following:
- $500 million: Quality Education and Performance Fund.
- $10 million: Education Learning and Accountability Fund.
- $90 million: Education Accountability and Improvement Fund.
- $100 million: State Infrastructure Fund.
- $25 million: Children’s Health Insurance Program Fund.
- $100 million: Family Stability and Self-Sufficiency Fund.
- $50 million: University, Scholarship, Operations and Infrastructure Fund.
- $125 million: Inflationary adjustment for K-12 funding formula.
Sarah Womer can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.