Everything you didn’t realize you really wanted to know about the Casa Grande Union High School District (CGUHSD) was revealed on Monday evening, September 15, 2014. District Superintendent Dr. Shannon Goodsell not only explained the override, which voters can choose to continue or end at the polls in November, but he also gave us an overview of CGUHSD itself.
The district covers 1200 square miles. Its borders go west 3/4 of the way to Maricopa, north to the Gila River Indian Reservation almost to Wild Horse Pass Casino, south to the northern part of Eloy, and east to the city limits of Coolidge. Pupils who’ve gone through K-8 districts in Casa Grande, Sacaton, Stanfield, Arizona City and Toltec make up the student population. CGUHSD is certified for accreditation by the Arizona State Department of Education, Advanced Placement, Advanced Ed, and the NCAA. They qualify for the following federally funded programs: Title I, a program to help students with reading and mathematics; Title II, which assists with staff development; and Title VII, which helps Native American students in the areas of reading and mathematics.
Current CGUHSD enrollment has a total of 3,800 students in their four schools: Casa Grande Union High School with approximately 1,600 students; Vista Grande High School, 1800 students; Casa Verde High School of STEM School (Science, Technology, English and Mathematics), which is solely for advanced placement (AP) classes has 125 students; and Desert Winds Learning Center with 450 students who have fallen behind and need extra help to be ready to graduate.
Graduation requirements include four years of math and English, three years of history and science, and eight electives, which must include two years of foreign language classes (Spanish, French or sign language). Students wanting to go on to college must include two years of fine arts in their electives. Those wanting to apply for scholarships must also do community service.
Asked about the district’s dropout rate, Dr. Goodsell said it currently stands at 4.1%. The average rate in AZ is 3.5%. He was very pleased to announce that there’s been a significant reduction in the number of Native Americans leaving school since he took over as superintendent three years ago.
The district is working towards the elimination of textbooks and the need for heavy backpacks by having each pupil supplied with a computer. The school receives a discounted rate of approximately $300-$400 per netbook. The students will insure the netbook for approximately $35. They hope to give the netbooks to the students upon graduation. After four years they’d need to replace the netbook anyway. Dr. Goodsell said, “We believe that this would be a perfect instructional tool to use in every class. We are starting this program in the advanced placement classes.” The goal is to eventually have every student receive one.
The override is an additional property tax, which we have been paying since May 1985 after being approved by the electorate in 1985. It must be reapproved or voted down every five years. These monies, which work out to less than one cent per student, total approximately 2.1 million dollars a year and comprise 9.05% of the district’s budget. The override dollars assist with academic programming, electives programming, student services, extra-curricular activities, and help to hire and maintain quality staff members. According to Dr. Goodsell, “The intent of use and the funding source of override funds has not changed in that time.”
When asked how much residents pay per dollar of valuation, Dr. Goodsell explained that it varies on when the home was built. He did give one example. The average home valuation within this district is $76,030 with a yearly payment for the override running about $30.
The total budget breakdown is 65% for instruction, 18% for plant operations, 14% for transportation, and 3% for athletics. Even with the assistance from the override dollars, there is insufficient funding for some of the electives like athletics, fine arts, agriculture, and even AP classes, so students must pay to take them. That is difficult if not impossible for many considering that 72% of CGUHSD students live at or below the poverty level.
When making your decision on how to vote on this issue, keep in mind that that Arizona ranks a poor 47th among the 50 states in the amount of money we spend on education.