The Glendale Star reached out to area school districts last week when reports surfaced that settlement talks between districts and state officials, over millions of dollars in education funding the state owes districts, had reached a stalemate.
District officials were disappointed in the news.
“It is unfortunate that six months of mediation did not lead to a resolution that provided the funding that is so desperately needed and owed to our students and the districts that serve them,” said Zachery Fountain, spokesperson for Dysart Unified School District.
“The Glendale Elementary School District had hoped that policy makers would have seen fit to find a way to properly restore funding owed to our schools,” said Jim Cummings, a spokesperson for GESD.
“We are disappointed that the parties were not able to reach an agreement,” said Monica Allread, a spokesperson for Deer Valley Unified School District. “This impasse does not provide a resolution to a court order to increase the funding that would have helped provide the means towards meeting those expectations.”
“None of the conversation taking place addresses the immediacy of the need that we live each day,” said Danielle Airey, a spokesperson for Peoria Unified School District. “We are extremely disappointed with the decision, yet remain hopeful.”
The reactions from legislative leaders split along partisan lines.
House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, (D-Dist. 28), criticized the majority party in the state Legislature.
“If the Republican leaders in Arizona were serious about getting money into classrooms now, they would use the $325 million projected surplus. Instead, they are using smoke and mirrors to play political games with the future of Arizona kids,” he said.
House Speaker David Gowan, (R-Dist. 14), announced a four-point plan that promised to deliver $500 million to classrooms and up to $5 billion over the next ten years.
“In 2012 voters rejected a plan to raise taxes to fund education by an overwhelming margin. There clearly is no interest to increase taxes for this purpose. This proposal keeps faith with the voters by responsibly investing billions of dollars into Arizona’s classrooms without a tax hike,” he said.
School districts want resolution.
“In Glendale alone, more than $26 million was cut from our budget since the great recession. During that same time the state implemented several new programs – including new learning standards and statewide testing system – that added to the burden of balancing our budgets while providing students with the education they deserve. In short, our children, teachers and staff have been asked to do more with less for far too long,” said Cummings.
“Our schools are responsible for preparing students for the opportunities and challenges they will face as part of the workforce and as the leaders in our communities. In Dysart, we take that responsibility very seriously. We know the District must have high quality educational programs to produce the educational outcomes that will help drive economic development, generate a competitive workforce, and protect the value of the communities and properties we serve. Our state must invest in our future, by investing in our students,” said Fountain.
“It seems universally accepted that the level of funding in the State of Arizona is insufficient to meet the student achievement expectations of the public,” said Allread.
“Our teachers should have the essential resources that directly support students and each day that goes by that they have to go without puts a continued strain on our classrooms,” said Airey.
“The Arizona Constitution obligates lawmakers to fully fund education, and to do so in an equitable manner. It’s unfortunate that policy makers could not fund students to the levels they deserve while insuring a sustainable funding source. Our children, our state, deserve better,” Cummings added.