Frontier Elementary School here in Payson, Arizona, is a performing plus school. It is one of three elementary schools serving the Town of Payson. It’s a rather unique school in terms of layout. The school is divided into domes that double as both classrooms and all-weather PE halls. My mother-in-law volunteers there and sometimes I join her, eager to obtain some classroom experience before I test the waters of a degree in education. The children here are remarkable, and the school has some of the lowest class sizes I’ve ever seen. The class I serve in, a small room full of bright third graders, has only eighteen students. Even this small amount is enough to keep the teacher, myself, and my mother-in-law on our feet most of the day.
As most of you might know, public education in Arizona has seen brighter days. From kindergarten all the way up to the state universities, budget cuts handed down by the Republican-dominated state legislature have sent administrators scattering to fill the gaps. Here in our small town of about 18,000, the result has been enormous layoffs. The school district no longer has any librarians. The vice-principal of Payson High School was laid off less than one year before his scheduled retirement day. Even with a budget override of $1.2 million passed by the town, the schools have been told that all of them will have to make do with shared principals, reduced staff, fewer teachers, and larger class sizes. Nine faculty and staff were laid off last month. Had the override failed at the ballot box, the result would have been close to 30. Worse yet, there is no word from the local school board on whether or not these positions will ever return.
Arizona Prop 100, a temporary one-cent sales tax increase sent to the ballot by the Arizona legislature and Governor Jan Brewer, is a needed measure to help balance the budget without resting the brunt of it on the backs of our educators and public safety officers. Education is a fundamental part of a successful economy, moreso than just about anything else. Should this measure fail, the coming onslaught of cuts would decimate the system beyond repair. The cost of doing nothing would be a lot worse than one penny on every dollar spent. Frontier Elementary, a school that has become rather dear to me in the short time I’ve been in Payson, would be on the chopping block permanently. Its 200+ students would be uprooted from the school they enjoy and forced to go across town to Payson or Julia Randall Elementary, bloating the class sizes there by perhaps as much as 35%. The hardworking staff would be out of a job. I can’t imagine the prospects would be much brighter in other parts of Arizona.
Do I think hiking sales tax is the right answer to solving our budget woes over the long term? NO. Arizona needs to get serious about corporate and property tax rates and ending its over-reliance on a shaky, regressive form of revenue. Sadly, the right-wing extremists who’ve controlled the state legislature since 1993 are not inclined to get tough with their pals in corporate boardrooms across our state. Hell, most of the state legislature didn’t even have the testicular abundance to pass the sales-tax hike themselves despite seeing the trouble the state is in financially. Instead, they were too busy passing bills prohibiting centaurs, dehumanizing people and denying them basic rights, and revoking sensible concealed carry laws. These robots have never seen a spending cut or deregulation they didn’t fall in love with, and they’ve never seen a tax they didn’t want to end forever. They are the root of the problem.
That’s why I present this appeal to you, readers in Arizona, to preserve our schools, our highway patrolmen, our streets and our social safety net. Get out to the polls on Tuesday, May 18, and vote YES on 100. And then, on November 2nd, kick out the bums who didn’t have the nerve to pass this themselves.