|The recent release of Governor Ducey’s proposed budget has caused quite a stir. All of us who value education agree with the Governor that we should do everything in our power to avoid making cuts that will negatively impact classroom instruction; however, his proposed budget does exactly that.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard misinformation and misrepresented data. There is much confusion among parents, teachers, staff, and our community members, but if you look at the facts, you will see that this budget will be felt in the classroom in harmful and devastating ways.
Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD) will face approximately $4.5 Million in cuts, if Governor Ducey’s proposal is adopted. The Governor has said that he is using a “Classrooms First Initiative, prioritizing funding for teachers and classroom instruction and ensuring maximum dollars are spent where learning happens – in the classroom.”
In other words, our $4.5 Million share of the cuts have to be attributed to “non-classroom” expenses. What the Governor fails to realize is that a high level of support which leads to academic excellence also takes place every day outside of our classrooms.
This support includes: Librarians who further children’s reading and academic goals; Counselors who help children meet their social and emotional needs, so they are prepared to learn; Academic Facilitators, who help teachers -- especially our newest teachers -- utilize the most effective instructional practices that lead to student achievement; Nurses who ensure children are quickly and accurately evaluated when sick; Nutrition staff who provide students with healthy food; Principals who guide teachers and staff, meet with parents, and keep a school running smoothly; Custodians and Maintenance Staff who make sure our facilities are safe and sanitary; Human Resources employees who hire teachers and school support staff; Bus Drivers who deliver children safely to school; Payroll staff who issue paychecks; and, even the electricity and air-conditioning which allow us to provide an adequate learning environment.
DVUSD educates 34,000 students every day and spans 367 square miles. If we were a for-profit business, we would be considered a large organization and would need all of the functions that a large business would need. Our District leadership works on a tighter budget than a business, while still performing all of the functions necessary to an organization that serves as many families as we do.
The Governor has said that he wants to promote fiscal responsibility. We have been recognized for our efficiency in the School District Spending Report as calculated by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General. DVUSD spends almost 5% more on instruction than the state average. The report also shows that although DVUSD receives less funding per student than our peer districts, the percentage of dollars spent in the classroom is higher than our peer districts. Furthermore, Arizona’s education system is already underfunded when compared to the rest of the nation. If Arizona funded an equivalent of the national average per pupil, Arizona’s classroom percentage would far exceed the 61% goal set by the Governor.
For the past seven years, DVUSD has cut more than $56 Million from our budget. We have passionate, hard-working teachers who deserve to make a higher wage, but budget cuts have prevented any sustainable wage increases for several years. We have eliminated administrative positions, conserved energy, repurposed a school, and cut staff from our HR, Facilities, and Transportation departments. We have worked hard to keep cuts from negatively impacting our classrooms, but we are running out of places to cut.
If this budget is passed, the percentage of dollars being spent “in the classroom” would show an increase, but the facts are that no additional dollars will be added to fund classroom instruction. The Governor is simply taking that money and moving it to other areas he favors, including charter schools.
The discussion on administrative spending must change. It cannot be just about percentages. It must be refocused on dollars per student, educational expectations, and the value that all employees and non-classroom support bring to the continued academic excellence throughout DVUSD and across Arizona.
Our Governing Board and I stand united against the Governor’s proposed budget. I implore our stakeholders and anyone who values education to read the proposal, think about the impact, and ask yourself if this plan is truly what is best for our students. The facts will show you that this budget proposal will have a negative impact in our classrooms.
Share this information so others will know the facts. Make phone calls. Contact the Governor’s office and your legislators directly. Sign up for the “Request to Speak” system that allows you to comment on specific bills including the Governor’s budget. You can read about these resources through the links above.
I strongly encourage you to use your voice to make a difference in the lives of students.
Dr. James R. Veitenheimer, Superintendent
Deer Valley Unified School District