Bond funds will keep Peoria a top school district

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In 2012, Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) voters approved a $180,000,000 bond - the first ever with no new construction. The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) convened by the governing board was provided with needs of $300,000,000 but recommended a smaller amount.

In 2015, another CAC was asked to consider an override and a bond. The recommendation made was for an override only, despite continuing construction needs.

In 2016, another CAC was convened, and the need for a new bond was clear. The governing board approved the $198,000,000 recommendation.

The bond has two parts: 1) $98,000,000 - district-wide renovation and improvement to existing schools; renovation of high school auditoriums; new buses and campus support vehicles; and purchasing equipment and infrastructure to support classroom technology; and 2) $100,000,000 - purchasing land and construction of an elementary school and a high school in the district’s northern portion. New home construction there is rapid and will continue for the foreseeable future.

PUSD is a top Arizona district, with a graduation rate of 95 percent and $65,000,000 in scholarships awarded to 2016 seniors. The 37,000 students and the teachers and staff in the district deserve your support.

Here’s what this bond is not about, and why the arguments against the bond are not persuasive:

1) 2012 bond money cannot be used for new building construction or land purchases. Voters approved bonds only for repair, renovation and improvement of existing schools.

2) State law prohibits the use of bond money for salaries.

3) The state has failed for years to provide funding for construction and building repairs. Apparently, it takes immediate threat to the safety of children to get money from the School Facilities Board.

4) Proposition 123 money went to salary increases for district employees who had gone without raises for years.

5) Despite Sen. Debbie Lesko’s statements in your voter pamphlet, she is not a strong supporter of traditional public schools. She is a supporter of tax cuts and non-traditional public schools. Yes, a significant portion of your property taxes go to PUSD. The Legislature’s failure to meet its constitutional responsibilities has caused the cost of public education to trickle down to you.

6) Perhaps the most convoluted arguments against the bond come from Chris Herring, District 21 Republican chairman. He argues we should be encouraged that $46,000,000 is available statewide for school repairs. PUSD alone has needs several times greater than that.

He also suggests that taxpayers should not pay for buildings needed for non-district students attending PUSD schools. First, those students do not all attend school in the northern part of the district. Forcing them to leave PUSD would not alleviate crowding where construction is needed. Second, those students represent approximately $22,000,000 of PUSD’s budget. It would be gone under his plan.  

Finally, and most absurdly, the Republican legislative majority has made school choice and open enrollment its hallmark. So now those are bad ideas? PUSD should violate the law and kick those students out? Seriously?

Please vote yes for the PUSD bond.