There are some startling conclusions we can draw from the election results of Nov. 5 in regards to the Kyrene and Tempe Union High School district’s Maintenance and Operation Override campaigns.
Well, some would stop right there and point out that the 61 to 39 percent win was startling. They’d be correct. But that’s not what gets to me.
Others would say that the increased turnout should have been the doom of the requested override, but once again, nope.
Still others would identify that the lagging recession and sluggish economy would never justify such a win and thus those numbers are “startling.” But once again I think you’d be wrong.
So what is startling?
First, it is important to remember that failure was an option. Tempe Union’s request for an M&O Override had failed in two of the past three elections. Yes, the margins were very narrow, but losing is losing. There are no merit badges or “moral” victories that can make up for a 10 percent cut in salaries or the outright loss of your job as a teacher. So the culture of winning, a concept Tempe Union and its precursor school, Tempe High, had NEVER faced for essentially the first century of its existence, was becoming the norm.
Secondly, the very best result that these two vibrant school districts could EVER hope for and was delivered in robust fashion on Nov. 5, was WHO supported the request.
Here’s a partial list that would have NEVER been assumed a few short months ago.
The Overrides were supported by a significant majority of Republicans: Representatives Bob Robson, Jeff Dial and Sen. John McComish, who represent this area. That is fabulous news. They are not RINO’s. They are Republicans who believe in education and their partisan constituency agrees in significant numbers. Robson, Dial and McComish risked their political careers to insist that the Republican Party NOT be aligned with forces antagonistic to education and they succeeded. OK, wow. That shattered some perceptions.
The Overrides were supported in record numbers by voters over 50. Indeed, nearly 80 percent of all voters in this election were over 50. Wow again. Perceptions take another loss.
The Overrides were supported by “empty nesters,” families whose kids were now out of school and thus had lost the direct connection to their schools. It didn’t matter. They voted FOR the Override.
And here’s what is most remarkable. Every precinct west of the freeway OPPOSED the Tempe Union request in the last general election. This time, every precinct west of the freeway SUPPORTED the override. From last to first. That’s Ahwatukee/Foothills educational clout in action!
These four great trends, in addition to the core support of Democrats, younger voters and public education advocates, created what I would term the single greatest coalition I’ve ever seen in the diverse Tempe Union community that encompasses Tempe, Guadalupe, Ahwatukee/Foothills and pieces of Mesa, Phoenix and the Gila Indian Reservation. You couldn’t find a more diverse population of voters.
Tempe Union and Kyrene teachers, administrators and employees have a point of pride that is significant and enduring. Where partisans continue to fail, they have elegantly united us.
• Dick Foreman is co-chair of the Yes-Yes Support Our School Campaign for the Tempe Union High School District.