Voters in the Sunnyside Unified School District turned down an override that would have increased property taxes and given the district more money for schools.
It wasn’t a surprise. The district has lost three budget overrides in the past three years, and the problems in Sunnyside’s administration and discord on the Governing Board are well known.
Those harmed the most, of course, are the students. They will be denied classes, teachers, programs and the support they require because voters don’t have the confidence in the Sunnyside administration and Governing Board.
Sunnyside’s budget override request would have allowed the district to collect 12 percent more in property taxes than allowed by the state school funding formula. Officials say the district will lose about $8.9 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year because the override failed.
Sunnyside supporters, including board members, said before the election that if the override didn’t pass, it would mean cuts to arts and music, librarians, teachers, safety officers and dropout prevention programs, according to reporting from the Star’s Jamar Younger.
Sunnyside voters turned down the override 53 percent to 47 percent. Every loss reinforces the negative perception of the district, which ebbs away the public’s confidence.
While we know the need for better funding of public schools, it’s not hard to understand why the request for more money failed. Voters have not, and do not, have confidence in the Sunnyside district’s leadership and Governing Board.
The chaos and controversy surrounding Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo, his personal financial problems and his decision to leave the district for a job in Texas (which didn’t pan out, so he stayed in Sunnyside) has an effect. Divisions within the community and on the Governing Board are pegged to those who support him and those who don’t.
There are recall efforts seeking to turn four of the five Governing Board members out of office. Such a lack of comity makes hesitation in entrusting them with more tax money an unfortunately reasonable position.
The majority of Sunnyside students qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. It’s not a wealthy part of Tucson, and in the hands of a district and Governing Board so fraught with conflict, money for an override seems like more of a financial risk than an investment in education.
The administration and Governing Board members need to pay attention to the message voters have repeatedly sent — get your house in order before asking the community for more money. The argument, valid though it is, that the kids need these teachers and programs simply isn’t enough.