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Peoria Unified is one step closer to more budget cuts after election loss

Posted at 4:24 PM, Nov 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-13 20:35:32-05

PEORIA, AZ — The Peoria Unified School District is one step closer to crippling cuts after its special election loss.

One of the largest school districts in Arizona is now considering some devastating cuts after voters rejected Peoria Unified's override increase on the recent ballot.

The district's superintendent sent an email to parents Wednesday, detailing what is next after last week's special election loss by just 133 votes.

"Just heartbreaking, extremely disappointed," said Chief Communications Officer Danielle Airey. "We could be in a very, very difficult position at this time next year."

With just one year of full funding left, $27 million in cuts will be coming if the district cannot pass an override next year.

"Right now we're in the planning stages, looking at all areas across our district," said Airey.

Increasing the override from 13 percent to 15 percent would have supported current and future safety initiatives. Programs like physical education, full-day kindergarten, assistant principals and school nurses would all be at risk.

"Maybe if you don't have a child that's a Type 1 diabetic that doesn't really mean anything to you but to those parents it really would," said Siobhan Kline, whose kids attend schools in the district.

Melissa Briggs also has several kids attending district schools.

"They deserve better than what we're providing at the moment," Briggs said.

The two moms are now organizing their own effort to educate other parents ahead of next year's election.

"It's getting people more invested in the district and if you don't think something is going the way you want to, take time and make it what you want," said Briggs.

The override would have increased property taxes by about $2-$6 a month for most residents. That increase, fueling the other side and those encouraging people to vote "no."

The opposition was vocal on social media, even getting creative to spread their message, citing things like district waste, administrator perks and a recent increase in state funding.

The "Vote No on Peoria Override" group provided ABC15 with the following statement:

"As parents and community members concerned about the appalling state of public education, we worked on social media to provide the community with pertinent information regarding spending and student achievement in the Peoria Unified School District. Along with more than 23,000 other PUSD residents we voted no on the District’s request for additional funding. We can’t say why others voted no, but we can tell you why we did. Since 2015, when PUSD’s 13% Override passed and the district got the extra money it asked for, we’ve seen student achievement in reading and writing continue to fall. By the end of 2018, only 26% of PUSDs 11th graders could pass the AzMerit ELA test. Even now, half of our kids can’t pass the math tests. The test scores are proof that additional funding did nothing to benefit our kids - the ones who ultimately pay the price for PUSDs incompetence. The district brags about its 95% graduation rate, but what kind of school allows a student to graduate when they can’t read, write or do basic math? Test results prove more money hasn't and won't solve PUSDs problems. The district must face that fact and come up with a plan to effectively teach our kids the basics. When they do, we'll be among the first to support the funding needed to implement that plan. Until then, expect us to continue to point out how PUSD over taxes our families and continues to fail our kids and their futures." - Vote No On Peoria Override Facebook group.