Potter: Maricopa not ready to support MUSD override

By Leon Potter

As many are aware, I served on the 2015 override recommendation committee for Maricopa Unified School District. Even though the vast majority of the committee was in favor of putting the override on the ballot in 2016, I want to express my opinion in the matter as an individual community member.

I do not believe the override will pass in 2016. In fact, I am doubtful it would pass in 2017. My opinion is based on public sentiment in the Maricopa Unified School District voting area. I don’t believe it has changed since the last time it was on the ballot when the majority of voters voted “no.”

Admittedly, I don’t have scientific backing of this. Also, I admit that I do not have a crystal ball to predict an outcome just as no one else does.

Not only do I believe that a ballot measure will not pass, I believe that each time it goes on the ballot it hurts the district as far as community relations is concerned. Although there is room for improvement, the school district has done such a great job in recent years to overcome obstacles to help its students get the best education it can provide. The override discussion is a step backwards.

Although I completely agree that losing funding is a challenge in itself, I just don’t believe the community is ready to support an override. If I thought it would pass, I would say the expense to put the override on the ballot is worth it. The cost in 2014 was $25,000, according to MUSD. I believe the district should save the expense and not “throw good money after bad” knowing the last six attempts were unsuccessful.

I understand the school board sees the recent override results in other districts as a positive trend. It could very well be the case for MUSD, too. However, I encourage school board members to look deeper into the situation of the other school districts. For instance, how many voted “yes” after voting “no” at least six consecutive times?

I understand the frustration of supporters of an override because they see the financial need, as I do, with MUSD. I also understand the frustration of MUSD voters when they ask, “when will it be understood that a ‘no’ means no?”

Kramarczyk: Students deserve investment of override

By Jeff Kramarczyk

On Nov. 18, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board voted unanimously to place a 10-percent, seven-year override on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot. If approved, the funds will be used for class-size reduction and expanded academic programs through additional teachers, and additional instructional technology for students.

The board’s decision to bring this issue to the voters was made after a several-month deliberation process that included MUSD parents, community members, district staff and the Maricopa Education Foundation. This collective strongly urged the board to place an override on the ballot to fund these much-needed measures. This override will bring an estimated $3.2 million in additional funds annually. This translates to approximately $500 dollars per student per year with an annual cost of $132 for the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000.

Here is why this override should be approved:

First, our students are our most precious community resource. They deserve our investment. We want them to receive the best K-12 education possible so they can maximize their potential and make positive future contributions to our city, our state and our nation.

Second, a thriving community needs a thriving school district. All neighboring school districts have overrides in place including Kyrene, Tempe Union High School, Chandler, Queen Creek, Casa Grande Elementary and Casa Grande High School. There are currently 1,500 Maricopa students attending school in Kyrene and Tempe. Parents enroll them there because those districts can afford to hire additional teachers to reduce class size and to provide additional academic offerings that MUSD cannot afford without these override dollars.

Third, MUSD is doing a good job and getting better. The district has recently improved its letter grade from “C” to “B.” The goal of MUSD is to be an “A” district with every school achieving an “A.” These funds will help insure that this goal is met.

As president of the Maricopa Education Foundation, I urge you to join me in supporting this proposal. If you need additional information or would like to discuss, please contact me at jpkramarczyk@msn.com.

This point/counterpoint appeared in the December issue of InMaricopa News.

4 COMMENTS

  1. So the point is that they shouldn't even try because it probably wouldn't pass anyway? This does not surprise me from somebody that quits whenever the environment doesn't quite suit him. Please remove yourself from the public eye Mr. Potter. Your opinion is no longer of any value in Maricopa. While I am not a supporter of adding new taxes, I am even less of a supporter of quitters. I say put it on the ballot and let the voters decide. Good Day

  2. Jeff, thank you for your input on this. Let me ask you this, if the school district is doing good and getting better (without an override in place) why would we want to throw more money at it when it is succeeding as it is? Also, if we hire more teachers with the override money, will we start firing them as the money dwindles? Or is the plan to just ask again in seven years?? Why not just a regular tax increase for the district like CAC did? Admittedly, I don't know all of the info but am willing to listen if there is sound information… as opposed to "I do not believe the override will pass in 2016. In fact, I am doubtful it would pass in 2017. My opinion is based on public sentiment in the Maricopa Unified School District voting area." How the heck does Mr Potter know what the public sentiment is? Talking to parents on soccer fields. He's never knocked on my door, or anybody I know….. even when he made a zero effort run for Mayor.

    • Retired Sailor Guy, I am glad that you are willing to jump into this dialog. As a voter, probing for the details on both sides of a proposal is a critical step to making an informed decision, especially when that decision has an impact on both you as an individual and the community at large. I hope that everyone takes this same approach, override or other. Here I will try to address your questions directly, but invite you to reach out to me at jpkramarczyk@msn.com if you have additional questions or simply would like to discuss further.

      In response to your question about investing more money in the district, when it has been showing improvement without the override funds: MUSD has been making great strides in reaching it's current "B" grade, even within its financially constrained environment. The district's goal is to obtain an "A" grade. Each individual school's goal is to obtain an "A" grade. These override funds will help them achieve and sustain this.

      Your question about maintaining the staff and programs that are put in place as a direct result of the override funding, is a good one. However the answer is a complex one. Let me start by saying that the majority of public education funding is determined at the state level and the state of Arizona is significantly under funding education when compared to the rest of the US. Below is a link to a recent discussion between Maricopa County Republican Party Chairman Tyler Bowyer and moderator Brahm Resnik that paints a pretty clear picture on this issue. If we as Arizonians can not effect the change needed to improve state funding, we must then rely on alternate funding options to compensate for the financial short fall. This is where the override comes in. It is a tool that the state makes available to public school districts to help fund the educational needs/demands/goals of the community that it serves. So, to answer your question of is the plan to ask for an override extension in future years, yes. That is, unless there is a significant shift in public education funding at the state level.

      To your final question of why not implement a regular tax increase like the recent Central Arizona Community Collage increase. I am not a tax policy expert, but I do not believe that a local school district has the ability to exercise this type of measure. I believe that their only opportunity for additional taxpayer funds is through a bond (for capital expenditures (i.e. buildings and the like)) or override (for operational expenditures (i.e. staff and programs)).

      Though I feel that there is much more that should and can be discussed on this topic, in this forum, I will leave it here. I hope that this has provided you with at least a bit more information than you had before on this important topic.

      Link provided:
      http://www.12news.com/videos/news/politics/sunday-square-off/2015/10/25/74595374/

  3. "I believe the district should save the expense and not “throw good money after bad” knowing the last six attempts were unsuccessful." Leon Potter
    This line item has failed approval 6 times! Sounds like a really bad plan or a really poor PR campaign.
    "…the expense to put the override on the ballot… in 2014 was $25,000…" Leon Potter
    And they have done this 6 times? $25,000 x 6 = $150,000. Sure that's a lot less than the estimate 3.2 Million payout if it gets approved but $150k is still a good chunk of change. How about instead of “throw good money after bad” take a year off and use that $25k to enlighten the general populous of the principles and actions behind the proposed line item. If even after a better PR campaign you find that the following year it is still down voted then go on hiatus or like Retired Sailor Guy said go bigger and ask for a regular tax increase so we can keep people around.

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