VOL. 17 ISSUE NO. 41   | OCTOBER 12 – 18, 2011


CCUSD93’s override election – the missing pieces

ccusd test scores graphThis graph shows how increased spending has had little to no effect on test scores in the Cave Creek unified School District over the past 10 years. While spending doubled, achievement remained flat.

CCUSD93 – The upcoming special election for Cave Creek Unified School District, also known as School District No. 93, has brought to light a host of interesting problems this election go-round.

Phoenix residents, who also live in one of the smattering of school districts, including CCUSD93 and Paradise Valley Unified School District, holding a bond and/or override election, will find, unless voting by mail, they will have to vote at separate polling locations for the school election and the Phoenix mayoral/ council runoff election, since Phoenix conducts its own elections.

Sonoran News has received calls from Phoenix residents within the CCUSD93 who were concerned that people who set out to vote on Nov. 8 might only go to one location to vote rather than both and wondered which election they might decide is more important.

One proactive solution would be to request an early ballot to vote by mail. The deadline for doing so is Oct. 28.

The CCUSD93 Informa-tional Pamphlet came out with 10 pro statements and only one anonymous opposition statement.

Readers have questioned if submissions could be made anonymously.

The short answer is no.

While all ballot arguments must be signed by the submitter with their name and contact information, submitters may request their names be withheld from being printed in the pamphlet.

Sonoran News was also contacted by a few district residents who said they filed opposition statements with the Maricopa County Education Service Agency Elections Department well in advance of the deadline, none of which appeared in the pamphlet.

Michael Pfeffer submitted his opposition statement in June, which appears in today’s letters to the editor.

Another party, who asked to remain anonymous, said he submitted his opposition statement on or about June 30.

According to Elections Specialist Hope Olguin, her office never received those opposition statements.

Because the election department includes the first 10 arguments received both for and against the ballot measure, and since 10 pro statements appeared in the pamphlet, it’s unclear if more were submitted or if any may have been lost in the mail.

Olguin stated there have been frequent problems with mail delivery to various county offices, including hers, and stated the best way to ensure submissions reach her office is to drop them off in person.

One of the submitters whose argument did not appear in the pamphlet didn’t find that answer too satisfying and wondered if CCUSD93 administrators weren’t given an opportunity to review the ballot arguments and give their “imprimatur” prior to publication.

Olguin heartily denies there is any outside interference or screening of ballot arguments.

In any event, the submitter said, “There’s something funny going on here! I can see the postal service screwing up on an individual letter but not three or four.”

Looking at the district’s statement as to why it is asking for a 15 percent maintenance and operations (M&O) budget override and comparing it to the board’s pro statement as to why the district needs it, just doesn’t add up.

While reducing class size has been one of the mantras of every previous override, this time around, topping the district’s list is: “Maintaining class sizes.”

The board’s ballot argument says it wants to keep class sizes “manageable.”

Well, the district continues to up what it considers an acceptable class size and that number has risen over the years from 18 students per class to 24.

So, the district is saying it wants to maintain whatever it deems an acceptable number at the time.

The district also wants more money so it can continue all-day kinder-garten rather than go back to having parents who wish to send their children to all-day kindergarten to pay the nominal fee for the extra few hours of day care, as they did before former governor Janet Napolitano decided it should be funded with tax dollars.

The district says the override will continue funding elementary art, physical education, elementary general music and elementary band.

Some of the programs the district wishes to fund are not programs currently in place but expansions of programs it is funding with grants, such as the World Language Program it wishes to expand to elementary and middle school.

It’s not clear how the list was compiled and if the order of the list was based on priorities, but toward the bottom of the list, right above administrator, high school administrative assistant and administrative assistant at the district office, it states: “Maintaining current number of minutes per period per day in 7th – 12th grades.”

It’s not clear how education can be reduced to cost per minute, but would appear to be something that is already factored into a teacher’s salary along with the expectation they teach class for a specified number of minutes per period.

The board notes in its ballot argument that the district plans to use the override funds to expand programs and pay teachers “and critical staff” a competitive wage and benefits package.

With unemployment at the highest it’s been since the Great Depression, attracting employees of all types would appear to be easy, without the need for a “competitive wage and benefits packages” to lure the unemployed.

Then it states, “As a community, we cannot afford to: Lose 70+ teachers; lose programs like world language proven to enhance achievement; sacrifice art, music and physical education.”

CCUSD93 operates seven schools with declining enrollment, which has caused the closure of one elementary and one middle school over the past few years.

Based on financial reports provided by CCUSD93 to the state, in 2010, the district had 285.59 full-time-equivalent teachers.

According to the board’s ballot argument, it will have to do away with over 70, or approximately one quarter of the district’s teachers if voters do not approve a 15 percent override this year, even though it currently has two overrides in place, neither of which expire this year.