More money for education is a good thing

It’s amazing how much people bash the education system in their communities. If they spent any time observing the schools and seeing what goes on for seven to eight hours per day, then they’d realize that the locals are trying to keep learning going on a shoestring.

These days, funding for education is bouncing at the state and national levels like a maniac on a trampoline, leaving many schools uncertain from year to year whether they will have enough money for books, paying the electric bills, or keeping good teachers here instead of allowing them to go elsewhere.

Wisconsin is fortunate in that it has a healthy amount of the state budget geared toward education. However, it is dropping, and local property taxes have to pick up the slack as costs goes up, and at times, overrides and referenda are needed to keep districts solvent.

The situation is even worse in Arizona, where education spending is ranked 48th or 49th, depending on the year or who is doing the ranking. I grew up in the Arizona education system, and it seemed like every time a soul turned around, there was some referendum in Chino Valley to build a school or to bring a school back up to decent condition as the population grew by leaps and bounds.

Chino Valley is facing another request from the school district for $9.9 million to be paid back over the course of 20 years for a total cost nearing $15.4 million. Among the plans are replacing the aging bus barn, which looked old and dilapidated when I went to school nearly 20 years ago. The buses are even older, with a couple of them rivaling me in age.

The schools have not been able to keep up on the times with technology, either. Some of the bond money is expected to pay for new computers, something that I found interesting, considering a school district in my county recently asked for a budget override to do the same thing. With technology permeating every aspect of our lives, from the way we shop to the way we look up information, it’s vital that students have the ability to use technology to learn as much as possible.

It’s true I no longer live in Arizona, but I find myself hoping the bond effort succeeds. I remember some of the classrooms looking squeaky clean and brand new, while others felt like they were the sort of classrooms my parents or grandparents learned in. Sometimes the heat didn’t work very well. Sometimes the cooling systems didn’t work well, and when you live in an area where it gets into the 100-degree range on a regular basis, the last thing you want is for the cooler to be non-functional.

The most intriguing prospect of the bond is that the old west gymnasium at the high school could be turned into a performing arts center. When the high school was built more than 20 years ago, that gym was part of the middle school and included a stage. When I did shows there, we changed costumes and did make-up in an old weight room. The high school itself had what was called a mini-auditorium, which fit about 70 people at one time. It didn’t make it easy to raise money for the drama department.

If the bond succeeds, and the gym can be remodeled, then Chino Valley could finally come into its own as an arts destination. The neighboring communities of Prescott and Prescott Valley have several venues for theater and other art forms, but Chino Valley has not kept up in that regard, despite having talented people. It would be an opportunity for the school to really showcase its talent without infringing on the sports department and the gymnasiums, and it might attract other organizations to Chino Valley to utilize the facility.

Theatre enjoyment aside, the money is needed to provide an atmosphere for a quality education. I remember the Arizona system for funding education, and it sucks. I hope my hometown comes together and votes yes on this, because when a community turns its back on its schools, its core values suffer as a result.

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