Shining Light on Arizona Prop 100

Know anyone with kids?   Do them a favor and don’t block out the light of the sun.  If you live in Arizona, please vote to pass the sales tax increase on May 18: Proposition 100, which will benefit K-12 schools, state colleges, and universities.

If our schools were single family households, the options we are faced with would seem like choosing between food on the table and medical care.  Down here in the desert Southwest, I’ve heard our region called “the Appalachia of the 21st Century” when considering the plight our schools.  With our high immigrant population (mostly Native Central and South Americans crossing the border to North America), it seems as if some voters would prefer to see all of our children starve.  But isn’t it time for emergency measures?  If we can’t ask our citizens to pay a little more out of the pocket in order to nurture our youth, where else can we expect to turn?  We can’t expect one mission-strong church congregation or humanitarian organization to spend all of their hard-earned cash.  The responsibility falls upon all of us.  Responses like, “No new taxes. No matter what!” sound false and shallow against the backdrop of the hard circumstances that public schools are faced with today.  Our children are inside those classrooms and every one of us cares about their education.  We must start caring about others’ children too.

The number of dollars spent on education by our state and federal governments doesn’t correlate with student achievement unless that money is directed to the classroom. Teachers and administrators have been asked to troubleshoot: Would you like to stop using your dominant hand or one leg? Among the budget-cutting options listed by teachers at a recent morning meeting were consolidating schools and eliminating all middle school sports. The soft capital that has funded my dance teaching position for 5 years is likely to be redirected to absorb the costs of basic operational expenses. What could be used toward the expansion of young minds is going toward heating our buildings.

My idea would be to end the state test for a year and pool our resources to fund real 21st century initiatives in our schools.  To me, it’s not a radical idea.  Let’s give the kids what they need, like technology and the arts, rather than a test which simply tells they have passed or failed.  Let’s keep all of our athletic and after-school programming that helps bridge the gap between the privileged and the unprivileged, in an already stratified setting.

I don’t need a big raise every year, but when incentive pay programs for teachers such as Career Ladder are reduced, our kids lose a few more of the sun’s rays.  These programs are proven to bolster student success because they reward teachers for taking on the responsibility of tracking and measuring student achievement in their own classrooms.  If Proposition 100 fails, the results would be catastrophic for the entire state.  Here in Arizona, we may tire of the sun, but our kids still deserve to dwell in the light.  The amount of money cut from Amphitheater School District’s this year would be equivalent to turning off all utilities in our buildings for two years.

With every new budget communique our district superintendent sends us, she praises us for demonstrating strength against adversity.  Arizona’s school districts are already bracing against cuts to all-day kindergarten, adult education, and the end of Building Renewal and New School Construction dollars for 2011.  How much more can we lose without devaluing the whole education of our children?  Proposition 100 is the best present solution to these drastic cuts.

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