For over 131 years, the Peoria Unified School District has been teaching the students of the Northwest Valley. Founded in 1889, the original school’s class size varied between five and 15 students full time in the first few years. Today, the district serves more than 36,000 students from Glendale, Peoria, Surprise and Youngtown in 34 elementary schools, seven high schools and one nontraditional high school. It is now the fourth-largest district in the entire state.

A lot has changed since the turn of the century, but one thing has remained certain—PUSD’s commitment to quality education then and now is reflected in its values: integrity, collaboration, excellence, and equity. While our community has been tested in this pandemic, there is no doubt that our schools remain an important part of supporting our community and growing our local economy.

This November, voters in PUSD will be asked to vote on two key issues: a continuation of the existing override and a critical needs bond. Support Peoria Students—a committee of parents, business owners and community leaders—asks you to join us in voting “yes” on both issues.

It is no secret that people choose to live in our community because we have excellent property values and low crime. We are at the top of many, if not most, quality of life lists, including “Safest Cities in America” and “Best Cities for First-Time Home Buyers.” Our schools play a key role in keeping it that way. An investment in our schools is an investment in our quality of life.

Both items are a fiscally responsible approach that allows us to support our schools while keeping taxes low. The override is not a new tax—it is a continuation of the local funding that our schools have had in place for the past 24 years. The secondary property tax rate for the critical needs bond is expected to remain at or below $1.48, which means the tax rate will not increase. 

So, what is on the ballot and why are there two items? The simple answer is overrides are about people and programs—they cannot be used for construction. Conversely, bonds fund construction and equipment—they cannot be used for staffing.

The override continuation funds teacher pay to help attract and retain quality teachers and keep class sizes small. It also funds important staff positions, including nurses, assistant principals and physical education teachers. Without it, the district would be forced to cut $28 million from its budget, including cuts to athletics, arts, music, physical education, gifted education and full-day kindergarten.

The “Critical Needs” bond is focused on student and teacher safety, including investments in school security and key renovations to facilities in need of repair, including air conditioning, heating, roofing projects, restrooms, parking and other critical items. It also invests in technology, replaces aging buses, and acquires land for the future construction of a new high school to keep up with growth. As participants of the bond process, we can say firsthand that these are simply the most essential items in need or repair and replacement to keep our students safe—they are not “luxury” items.

This is our opportunity to show the strength of our local support for our schools. We hope you will join us in voting “yes” to support our quality of life, attract jobs and train our future workforce, protect teacher pay and key programs, and fund critical needs and improvements to keep our students safe. Vote “yes” on the PUSD override and bond. Both are needed for a brighter future.

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