“Keep Kyrene Strong.” You’ve seen the bright yellow signs on prominent corners in the Kyrene corridor, but what does that mean, exactly?
In the short term, it means that the Kyrene School District is asking voters to extend the existing property tax dedicated to Maintenance and Operations funding for Kyrene schools on Nov. 5. Voter approval is required for the district to exceed the statutorily mandated cap on local funding for schools, therefore, it is called a budget override.
What it doesn’t mean is a new tax or an increase in the existing property tax rate. Your property tax will remain the same.
The stark reality is, state funding for local schools has been on a steep and steady decline. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, Arizona ranks fourth lowest in funding for public schools. In Kyrene, only 36.6 percent of the Kyrene budget comes from state funds; 48.8 percent comes from local property taxes. Despite the aggressive approach Kyrene has taken to managing the budget efficiently (Kyrene invests 60.2 percent of its funding in the classroom, compared to the state average for other schools, which is 54.2 percent, and it spends 58 percent less on administration than other schools nationally), our schools depend on local support to provide a quality education for our kids.
Which is important, especially if you have school-aged children who attend Kyrene schools. But what about the rest of Kyrene residents? Why is it important to “Keep Kyrene Strong” beyond the override election?
To begin with, an investment in student achievement and academic success is an investment in our communities. Strong schools mean strong property values. Real estate experts will tell you that the No. 1 criteria individuals consider when purchasing a home is the quality of local schools. Research suggests that homes in neighborhoods with high performing schools will go for a higher selling price.
Strong schools, plus strong property values, mean strong communities. The business community recognizes how important it is to “Keep Kyrene Strong.” Both the Tempe and Chandler chambers of commerce have endorsed the override campaign. A recent article in Tempe City Department News attributed the recent success in attracting new businesses to Tempe to the quality of our schools, “It starts during the formative elementary, middle school and high school years — and, for that, Tempe’s three school districts offer an array of high-quality choices that deliver some pretty spectacular results.”
Support for education extends beyond party lines, as evidenced by the endorsements of the budget override by all three legislative representatives, Sen. John McComish, Rep. Jeff Dial and Rep. Bob Robson, and the mayors of the cities of Tempe and Phoenix, Mark Mitchell and Greg Stanton.
In addition to the investment in our schools through support of budget overrides, we need the enthusiastic support of businesses, property owners, retirees and our elected leaders, to maintain Kyrene’s status as a high performing school district. For our communities, our schools, our teachers and our children, let’s “Keep Kyrene Strong.”
• Rosalie Hirano is co-chair of the Keep Kyrene Strong Political Action Committee.