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CCUSD seeking M&O override in November election

10/21/2015

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

CAVE CREEK – The Cave Creek Unified School District is asking voters to approve a Maintenance & Operations override to fund classroom spending. The override question will be on district voters’ ballots in the Nov. 3 election.

The M&O override provides classroom funds that help pay for staff salaries and student programs.

“One hundred percent of the dollars are going to support the classroom,” said CCUSD Superintendent Dr. Debbi Burdick. “It will all be for programs and class sizes.” Burdick named some of the programs that the override will help fund, including foreign language classes, PE, all-day kindergarten, libraries, and nurses.

If passed, override funds will help fill in the gaps caused by the lack of charter money. CCUSD used to receive funds based on their district-sponsored charter schools. After the state budget was passed earlier this year, funds for district-sponsored charter schools were phased out. According to Burdick, CCUSD formerly received $3.4 million for the district-sponsored charter schools; now, the district will no longer receive that funding.

The M&O override is projected to provide about $4.2 million in classroom dollars. According to the CCUSD override information sheet, the net cost of the override will be less than $2 per month for the average homeowner in the district. The increase is less than $10 per month, and homeowners will no longer be paying the charter tax, which was approximately $8 per month. Factoring in the $8 per month that will no longer be paid, the homeowners’ tax increase is less than $2 monthly.

No capital funds will be provided by this override, meaning that the money raised cannot be used for new schools, furniture, or other non-classroom items. The money must be used in direct classroom spending, such as for teachers’ salaries and student programs.

CCUSD’s foreign language program is one of the student programs set to receive override funds.

“Every child in our district K-12 learns a language, and some of our preschools also teach a world language,” Burdick noted. Foreign languages taught include Chinese, Spanish, and French.

“Ever since we have had the language programs, we have seen our students’ test scores increase every year,” Burdick reported, adding that learning a foreign language “wires the brain to learn many things and problem solve.”

Last year, CCUSD had to ‘RIF’ (reduction-in-force) teachers, based on the number of students in the district. Students have returned to the district this year, so the number of teachers is currently the same as last year. If the override does not pass, it hasn’t been determined yet if staff will have to be cut.

Burdick and the district staff has asked each school to look at how they would cut 12 percent of their budget, if the override does not pass.

“We’re hopeful that the override will pass, and we won’t have to look at that,” Burdick said.

While CCUSD is one of the smaller school districts in number of schools with only seven schools and a site with preschools, the district is fairly large geographically. CCUSD encompasses 174 square miles, and students come from Cave Creek, Carefree, North Scottsdale, North Phoenix, Rio Verde, and unincorporated Maricopa County. CCUSD currently has approximately 5,400 students.

“Every day, I work with a diverse group of amazing teenagers,” said Lori Hart, a CCUSD teacher and the Yes For Cave Creek Schools PAC campaign manager. “They are talented, kind, smart, and motivated. And yet, each year, I – all teachers – must do more with less – less resources, less money, and less time.”

Hart, also the president of the Cave Creek Education Association, is volunteering her off-school time to the PAC, which advocates for the override on the basis of small class sizes, high quality teachers, and funds going to the classroom.

“I am a Journalism teacher at Cactus Shadows High School and have been teaching there for 11 years,” Hart said. “I have been involved in CCUSD school elections for just as long. I choose to be involved each year because of my students.”

Hart noted that lack of funds has contributed to the loss of many quality teachers, which she said “impacts student learning in clear ways.”

“It is these students who suffer most in an economically starved environment,” Hart emphasized. “The most important thing to remember about this particular election is that 100 percent of the money will go directly into the classroom to support students and teachers.”

Early ballots have already been arriving in homes. Voters who are not voting via early ballot can find their polling place at recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace. Early ballots can be mailed in prior to Nov. 3 or dropped off at polling places on Nov. 3.

 

For more information on the CCUSD override election, see www.ccusd93.org or log in at Facebook.com and search Yes For Cave Creek Schools.