Data from our district show that from school year 2018-2019 to the most recent September report, the number of students in our elementary schools (k-8) has DECREASED from 8,330 to 8,100. All 9 (10 if you throw in Higley Virtual) elementaries have open enrollment in ALL grades except Bridges which reports a full 4th grade and Gateway Pointe that reports a full 2nd and 3rd grade. The HUSD website show the schools having capacity of 8,600 students.
Two recent reports from the AZ auditor general, and a Feb 2020 report from Christian Barnard at the Reason Foundation, both identified the two main areas of waste in AZ educational spending as:
1. Operating schools below capacity
2. Increasing administrative pay/benefits and inadequate monitoring of those amounts and payroll in general.
If we open a new elementary some students attending current schools would immediately shift to the new school due to boundaries, but not enough to fill the new school to capacity. The schools that lost those students would face decreased attendance, increasing the wasted space in the district. By opening the new school, the district forced us into the biggest budget waster of all (excess capacity). The new school adds to our administrative expense taking more money out of the classroom every year. The district could instead add capacity in our current elementaries (like they are with the High School) thus helping us to avoid those two large areas of waste and run the district more efficiently.
I would vote YES on a bond for maintenance/upgrades. The district has many older buildings that need capital, and I am sure we would all support more spending on security. I would even support bond borrowing over and above those amounts to pay for addition(s) to the current elementaries if the district can prove it is crucial. Wasteful spending jeopardizes our ability to pay competitive salaries and give our students the best education possible. I did a FOIA request to ask the district what discussions/considerations had been made on adding capacity to current schools vs. building a new one. The e-mailed response was, “the information you are looking for was discussed in executive session, which is not public information”. Executive session topics are listed on meeting agendas, so I went back through the agenda items from last year and this year before the new bond was announced. I didn’t see any items saying they discussed this topic.
The demographics report the district received in 2020 (which I FOIAd last year) indicates that much of the recent growth in the area is comprised of populations having fewer kids overall and more often seeking other educational options outside the district. Recent developments in the state legislature may provide extra funding per student allowing the district to use this new money to pay for the maintenance without borrowing or alternatively the “school voucher extension” may drive more students away from district schools to seek other options meaning we won’t need as much classroom space. Either way, the facts do NOT support borrowing for a new school and we should vote NO.