Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ~Matthew 11:28

Should You Vote Yes For The 2013 Agua Fria District Override?

Posted: 2013-10-11

October 10, 2013 Howard's Blog

Well first of all, GEOrgia Lord says to vote FOR it, so I was suspicious immediately.

GEOrgia says in her support letter that this is NOT a new tax, so your taxes will not go up.  Well, GEOrgia, as usual, is full of it. Of course this is a new tax, and if you vote AGAINST it, your taxes might go DOWN because as property values go up (which they have already, and we didn’t see GEOrgia and the city of GY lower rates did we?) you will see your taxes go up even more.

But Seriously, Folks
Ok, forget about GEOrgia’s advice, GEOrgia’s advice and two bucks will buy you a coffee at Starbucks.

In general, I favor good schools. I also happen to know some current and former school teachers in the area and I can tell you that school teachers in AZ are paid SQUAT, and way LESS than city employees.  A barely living wage, in fact.  And in addition, they have HUGE class sizes, that always seem to be getting bigger and bigger. I also believe that good schools foster higher property values.

Is AFUHSD Spending our Money Wisely?
So let’s look at the Agua Fria Union High School District (AFUHSD) in detail to see if we think they have been spending our money wisely and if we should give them more of it.

AFUHSD Facts (these are all rounded, and came from AFUHSD web pages and the individual HS web pages)
6,600 students at 4 high schools.
Aqua Fria = 1600, Desert Edge = 1600, Verrado = 1600, Millenium = 2150 Total = 7,000?

I know, it does not add up. Not a good thing. The numbers on the web pages vs their annual reports are not in sync.

Annual spending ~ $37-38 million.  Half comes from the state (still us, although GEOrgia might not agree), half from local property taxes.
Total employees, 680.  I’m guessing about 400 of these are actual teachers. More later on that.
Salaries = $18.6 million.  Teacher Instruction salaries = $10 million.  Only a bit more than half their salary budget appears to go to actual instruction.
Admin salaries, $2 million.  Athletics salaries, $1 million, Plant operations salaries, $2 million. Just those 3 make 50% of what all the teachers make.

In fact, of the nearly $38 million spent in AFUHSD, only about $13.4 million is actually spent on instruction.

Lets take a look at one school.  I picked it randomly, Agua Fria High School which represents about 25% of the district.
Students, 1600.  Total staff, best I could tell = 89. Here is the break down:
Math & Science 25
English, Social Science, Language 29
Total Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic classroom instructors = 54 for 1600 students.

So there are only 54 reading, writing, and arithmetic TEACHERS at a school that serves about 25% of the entire district. 25% of the entire district expenditures of $37 million per year is over $9 million. If that were going to these 54 teachers, they would each be making nearly $175,000 per year!!

That’s like the salaries of the GY City Manager and a few of his higher paid deputies, and I can assure you, NONE of these teachers make anywhere NEAR that much.

So where is all the money going to?

There are 7 Admin employees working in the Principle’s office at just this high school, 4 PE, 2 Aerospace, 6 Tech (and that does NOT include Wes-Mec the regional tech school. They have their own taxing authority), and 6 Fine Arts (OK, nothing wrong with fine arts).

Does it take 7 admins to manage 82 college grad (many with higher level degrees) teachers?
Does it take a PE staff of 4 for 1600 kids? Do we need all those tech folks in addition to Wes-Mec?

I don’t know. But even if you put all 82 in the mix with the 54 basic education teachers, we’re still spending nearly $115,000 per teacher that is actually IN the classroom.  I think teachers in AZ make only about $40,000 to $50,000 TOPS and their salaries start in the $30′s.

This district does not seem very well managed to me when in a $37 million budget only $10 million is going to teacher salaries and when reading, writing, and arithmetic make up just over half of the classroom teachers in one of their schools.

Some Questions
Is there some magic to having a school district with only 6,000 to 7,000 students?
Why is there a separate HS district from the elementary school and middle school districts?
Why is there only one HS district for multiple cities (GY, Avondale, Litchfield, Buckeye, and part of Glendale) but separate lower school districts for many of those towns?
And doesn’t each separate district, have it’s own superintendent and all of their staffs? You bet they do.

Nope, they’d have to explain all of this to me to get my vote, regardless of what GEOrgia says.

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