MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Devin Carson

By Ethan McSweeney

A few additional teachers and extra equipment for students are among the changes to the Maricopa Unified School District’s budget override. Governing Board will vote Wednesday to move the ballot process forward and gather pros and cons.

Teaching positions
•    Elementary Schools –  24 teachers for class size reduction
•    Middle Schools – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs
•    Maricopa High School – 4 teachers for class size reduction and 2 teachers for expanded academic programs. 7 teachers will be hired for a new alternative program.
•    2 Instructional Technology Integration Teachers
•    1 Elementary Teacher on Special Assignment
•    3 Elementary Counselors
•    1 Elementary/Middle School Librarian
Technology
•    595 student laptops ($544 each – includes tax and shipping)    $323,680
•    17 locked computer carts with charging stations ($1,530 each)    $26,010
•    1 tech support staff member (salary and benefits)            $45,000
•    Computer Licensing                              $45,000
•    Technology Equipment and Supplies                   $30,310
•    Instructional Tech Professional Development for teachers        $30,000
Source: Maricopa Unified School District

Under the revisions to what would be added with passage of the 10 percent, seven-year budget override, 50 new teachers are proposed, up from 47 teachers. Also, 595 student laptops would be purchased, increasing from 490, in additional to other small increases in technological equipment for a total of $500,000 in spending, according to MUSD.

The slight changes to the number of teachers and technology in the proposal are a result of increased enrollment in the district, which makes the 10 percent increase, said MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. The district Governing Board voted to send the override to the 2016 general election ballot back on Nov. 18, 2015.

The vote Wednesday is a procedural vote that will set a deadline of Aug. 19 for submitting “for” and “against” arguments for the ballot, Chestnut said. The Governing Board will also vote on its argument in support of the override measure.

If approved, the override would increase secondary property taxes by a rate of $133 per $100,000 of assessed value each year. The override would provide the added funds by the 2017-18 school year.

Those new hires would include 24 elementary teachers, six middle school teachers and 13 high school teachers. Thirty-two teachers of the 50 would be hired in an effort to reduce class sizes with another four teachers at the middle school and high school levels to add academic programs, according to MUSD.

Seven teachers would also be added at the high school level for a new alternative program. This program, according to MUSD, would aid students who have difficulty learning at a large high school like Maricopa High School.

Proposition 123 passage

Maricopa Councilmember Vincent Manfredi, who is the chairman of the “Vote Yes on the Override” campaign, said he isn’t too concerned that voters may not want to support the budget override after the passage of Proposition 123, which will add $3.5 billion to Arizona schools over the next 10 years, because that money is going to all school districts, not just Maricopa.

About 51 percent of Arizona voters approved Proposition 123, which was sent to the ballot to solve a years-long dispute over whether the state underfunded schools during the recession years.

“It gives money to everyone, including Kyrene [School District] and Tempe [Union High School District],” Manfredi said. “It still leaves Maricopa at a competitive disadvantage.”

Kyrene and Tempe Union, which have voter-approved overrides in place, are able to draw Maricopa students away from MUSD because those districts are able to offer more, which won’t change with the approval of Proposition 123, Manfredi said.

Passage of the override this fall, he said, would help MUSD better compete with those districts by providing the additional teachers and technology the district needs.

Maricopans haven’t been receptive to override measures in the past with voters striking down the previous six that have appeared on the ballot.

Manfredi said Maricopans often express their community pride through outlets like the “Battle of the Burbs”, which Maricopa has won.

“I see the community pride involved and it bothers me that we don’t have that same community pride in our school system,” Manfredi said.

Positions to fill at MUSD

As voters decided on the override question that would include 50 extra teachers, MUSD is looking to fill 18 open positions at its schools for the upcoming academic year.

The openings, as of Friday, include: math, chemistry and history teachers at MHS; math, language arts and Spanish teachers at Desert Wind Middle School; a special education math teacher at Maricopa Wells Middle School; a fourth grade teacher at Butterfield Elementary School; and a kindergarten teacher at Maricopa Elementary School.

Four registered nurses, two speech and language pathologists and a special education behavioral counselor are also needed at the district.

Some of the open specialized positions, such as the speech and language pathologist and the special education jobs, are always more difficult to fill, Chestnut said.

MUSD also has three coaching positions open, including a varsity cheerleading head coach at MHS and a baseball coach and a softball coach at Desert Wind.

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