Several Large School Districts In Phoenix Area Fail Funding Measures

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2018 - 8:48am
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2018 - 12:17pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.03 MB)

Arizona school funding was a hot topic this election cycle  — and early results show some communities did not approve more funding for public school districts.

Five of the 20 school district bonds and overrides in Maricopa County appear to be failing, according to the latest ballot count.

Bonds and overrides give school districts a chance to raise more money through local property taxes and bond sales.

The Peoria Unified School District’s $189 million bond seems to be failing: the second bond to fail in a row.

“We know that our staff members are going to continue to serve our students, they’re going to continue to do the incredible things in the classroom, they’re just going to have to do it now with even fewer resources,” said Danielle Airey, district spokesperson.

Airey said the first step will be to assess what safety needs schools have to fix with the last of the 2012 bond money, which is $25 million.

Peoria has 37 schools and was hoping to use the bond to build a new elementary school and high school in a growing, northern part of the district. 

Airey said the district does have caps on classroom sizes, so those can't increase. But if more students enroll like officials expect to happen, the school schedule could change. 

"We may have to look at creative scheduling options, such as modified school calendars that take us for a year-round school, or modify schedules in some way to service more students in our system," Airey said.

Other resources that won't be funded would be replacement school buses and musical instruments.

Short On Change

Another large school district that appears to have both a bond and override failing is Mesa Unified School District. 

The $300 million bond and $56 million override would have been for school bus and technology upgrades, and support staff wage increases, respectively.

"With the loss of the bond and override, our main concerns are how to fund security and safety improvements, how to maintain and improve class sizes with appropriate social-emotional support for students and how to remain competitive when recruiting and retaining students and staff," said Mesa Superintendent Ember Conley in a written letter published on the website.

Conley continued by saying district officials will likely put a hiring freeze for all positions except classroom teachers, as well as a hold on all capital expenditures. 

Mesa has more than 50 schools, but it hasn't been only large districts taking the heat. Smaller, rural districts are also facing failing bonds. 

Nadaburg Unified School District, a two-school district in Wittman by Surprise, is failing by just over 20 votes at time of writing. The district has been plagued with financial issues  and has failed to pass a bond at least five times in the last several years. 

The $2.3 million bond would have gone to upgrading fire alarms and renovating schools. Nadaburg has had to go down to a 4-day per week school schedule to save on operating costs. There are also plans to build a new high school , which officials say will be put on hold with the bond's failure.

Buckeye Elementary School District, where officials touted a 4.5% pay raise to teachers before the Red for Ed movement led teachers across the state to walk out, also has an apparently failing $65 million bond. 

That bond would have gone to building a new school, as well as other upgrades. 

With several hundred thousand ballots still to be counted at time of writing, updates can be found on the Maricopa County Recorder's website.

More Stories From KJZZ

If you like this story, Donate Now!