During candidate forums, voters often want to hear our views on our schools. I usually answer with a discussion of the economic value a community derives from a good education system. Businesses locate where they can recruit a talented and educated workforce; business leaders choose to live where their children can receive a quality education. But, it’s not just an issue of economics…we have a responsibility to offer our youngest citizens the best educational advantages for their success. With the right resolve, Scottsdale can offer the best.
My high regard for the importance of education is not just campaign rhetoric. I grew up on a farm in southwest Missouri where educational excellence for most families was defined as graduating from high school. But not in our family! My mother taught in a one-room country school house before she married and started her own family. She knew the only way her three sons would ever escape the cycle of poverty in our hometown was through education.
Prodded by my parents’ insistence, aided by their sacrifices as well as scholarships and loans, I was able to attend Northwestern University and earn an undergraduate degree in accounting, a graduate degree in finance and a CPA certification. These were transformative events in my life.
Years later, my wife, Diana, and I instilled the value of education in our two daughters. Now, we’re rewarding good grades earned by our six grandsons to hammer home the same message.
So, what is Scottsdale doing to meet our educational responsibilities? Five school districts serve the Scottsdale area, although most students go to one of three; Scottsdale, Cave Creek or Paradise Valley Unified School Districts. In 2013, these three districts spent $7,000 to $7,500 per pupil…just 75% of the national average. Barely half the meager spending went toward classroom instruction.
Scottsdale Unified School System is rated “A” for the district (by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General), but half the individual schools are only “B” or “C” rated. Since 2008, total spending per pupil has actually decreased by 8%. Worse still, spending on classroom instruction decreased from 60.4 to 57.9 percent of this declining total, while spending on plant operations and administration both took an increased share.
Cave Creek Unified School District, home to a lot of students north of Loop 101, did better with less money. The district is rated “A” but, unlike SUSD, all their individual schools are rated “A.” In a school district only a fifth the size of SUSD, Cave Creek manages to spend 10% less on administration per pupil.
Scottsdale can do better! Scottsdale should do better! Scottsdale City Council can and should work together with all five Scottsdale school districts, looking for ways to enhance the livability of our community and meet the educational responsibilities to our children. I am committed to do that. I encourage you to join my campaign. I need your vote November 4.