Vail shops district resources to homeschoolers; PCC Board grades itself

At a meeting Tuesday, the Vail Unified School District Governing Board will discuss a plan to provide a la carte services to home-schooled kids.

Parents get to send their kids to private schools, charter schools or home-school them and receive a taxpayer-funded Empowerment Scholarship Account (a.k.a., voucher) to pay for the cost.

VUSD has provided home-schooled kids with the chance to take a class or join a club at one of the district schools. Then the state of Arizona includes that student as a part of its enrollment-based funding.

However, families getting vouchers don’t qualify to have their kids’ use of programs in public schools be supported by general state assistance.

So this is what the district will talk about: Providing parents with a formalized menu of options that will provide X service for Y cost.

The district would charge $750 to home-schooled kids to join a club or participate in middle school athletics. The price would be $1,200 per half credit hour for high school coursework. To participate in high school athletics would cost $2,000. All of it would be charged to the scholarship account.

Fine. Yeah. Whatever. School choice is fine. All for it. However, I would argue that one of the choices should be a neighborhood public school that’s not left to financially wither.

I also find it odd that the same people banging out ALLCAPS social media posts denouncing plans to forgive student loans for graduates of public colleges have no problem with taxpayers subsidizing Braydon Trevor Royce Scottsdaledude IV to go to an elite private school his parents could otherwise easily afford.

Especially when these universal vouchers punch a giant hole in the state budget.

You’ve gotta hand it to Vail though. The district is actively looking to recapture some of that voucher money lost when parents take kids out of public schools.

The board will also vote to accept a proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Only after the proposed budget is formally accepted will the district publicly post the budget. I don’t like this. Just put it up now, so people can give you real feedback on the plans for next year.

Some local governments argue a document isn’t a public document until the elected leaders see it. Yeah, file that under “Not How Anything Works.”

The budget will be up soon enough because state law required that it be made publicly available at least 10 days prior to adoption.

Other districts do. Hell, I’ve mocked Catalina Foothills Unified School District for calling a proposed budget a “straw budget.” It’s like how I still call the Chrome browser “Google.”

Amphitheater Unified School District is doing the same thing, as that Governing Board will vote on a proposed budget so that it can be published prior to a July 9 final approval.

C’mon, kids. Show your work.

Sub bidding

In Sahuarita, the school board will vote on its $74.1 million budget, which includes a slight tax cut. Primary property taxes will fall from $3.5668 per $100 of assessed valuation to $3.3763. Secondary taxes will also fall from $3.1352 per $100 of assessed value to $2.9704. 

So that’s a little more than $70 on a home with a limited cash value of $200,000. Then again, property values are going up and tax bills with them. Maybe don’t go blowing the money just yet.

Meanwhile, changes are coming to gifted programs in Flowing Wells Unified School District.

The big one being that the classes will now be held at each elementary school, so students will no longer have to catch a ride to Hendricks Elementary for classes.

The district will also be voting to add Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild and Other Stories” to its literature curriculum. Anchoring that anthology is “Bloodchild,” a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning sci-fi novelette about, among other things, immigration and male pregnancy. Teenage male pregnancy.

The book was available for public review and no one said anything. Now the district is set to approve it for classroom use.

Spanish translators are also set for a boost in pay. They will get a $500 stipend and a boost in hourly wage from $15 to $17 for services provided outside of the normal workday.

Catalina Foothills Unified School District is having a hard time finding substitute teachers, so the school board is  ready to increase daily pay from $130 to $140. For period longer than 11 days, a substitute would make $160 per day, up from $150.

And then for long-term assignments, teachers would get $175 per day, up from $150.

District administrators suspect they can’t find subs because they pay less than any of the surrounding districts.

Just a $20 a day increase pays CFUSD subs more than Flowing Wells or Tucson districts.

What are the odds that the other districts will up their substitute salaries and then Catalina Foothills will have to throw on another $10? I sense a bidding war for substitute teachers.

The cost is $200,000 and it’s already been included in the fiscal year 2025 budget.

That budget will be voted on during the board’s Tuesday meeting but it’s not going to be the final word.

The Arizona Legislature passed and Gov. Katie Hobbs signed the state budget for fiscal year 2025, and that will mean changes.

Phoenix dallied for so long that local governments had to just do their budgets guesstimating how the state would balance a nearly $600 million budget shortfall.

Cat Foot will be back by July 15 to rejigger to the totals. The $51 million budget doesn’t include much in new investments or initiatives. It’s basically a continuation of what has been.

A revised curriculum also awaits CFUSD students, should the board adopt policy changes handed down by the state. They kind of have no real choice here but that’s not a bad thing.

The changes include mandatory instruction in the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, the Holocaust and other genocides, and basic civics rooted in core ideals. What core ideals? State law doesn’t specify.

Does the legislative majority believe it so obvious their core ideals of Christian Nationalism and xenophobia are so endemic in these constitutions that they don’t need to specify? That’s some lousy indoctrination.

They might be shocked to find out one of the reasons for the American Revolution was to help facilitate mass immigration. I wonder if they are aware that, in Arizona, free tuition to state universities is a constitutional goal, not a socialist extravagance.

They should probably take this course.

Franchise elections

The Sahuarita Town Council will decide whether to send voters a ballot question extending a franchise agreement with Southwest Gas and to establish such agreements with three water companies.

Sorry for the backlash, Joe Barrios and the gang at Tucson Electric Power — which saw voters reject their franchise agreement with the city of Tucson in 2023.

Franchise agreements are typically bland political arrangements that provides a utility access to public rights of way in exchange for a small fee (passed on to ratepayers) and standard construction agreements. Regular maintenance of a water or gas line must be preceded by notice to the town, city or county.

Utilities prefer public rights of way because it’s the easiest way to build out service to a community built around a public road network. To cut through private property, would be a logistical and financial nightmare. They’d have to negotiate with property owner after property owner all the way across town.

State law requires these agreements be approved by voters and limits what the government can ask to maintenance requirements. Sahuarita can demand notification for maintenance. It can not force Southwest Gas to end fracking.

The water companies asking for their agreements are Green Valley Community Water, La Quintas Serenas Water Company and Global Water – Farmers Water Company.

The council will also vote on its 2024-25 $119 million budget, with a $42.7 million ending balance.

During a special meeting of the Marana Town Council, the staff will explain the current condition of town facilities and ask for direction about future changes involving utilities.

That sounds a little like the town is mildly suggesting but not really proposing the possibility of maybe (who knows) floating a bond election to expand town space. It’s an awfully vague agenda item, which leaves a lot of room for discussion. Neither I nor Google can remember the last Marana bond and the town’s grown quite a bit during the last decade.

South Tucson is looking at a $589,864 general fund deficit for fiscal year 2024-25. That might not seem like much but on a $7.4 million budget it’s more than 7 percent of overall expenditures. The general fund is the discretionary money that the council is free to spend as it wishes within the confines of the law.

The city council will talk about what to do about this deficit during its meeting Tuesday, and (hopefully) agree to a course of action to meet the legal requirement of a balanced budget.

Here’s something we don’t see every day.

The Pima Community College District Governing Board has done a self-assessment and sent the answers to David Borofsky, executive director of the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council. He will provide his analysis of the results during the board’s meeting on Monday.

This is a bit gutsy. Self-appraisals are absolutely no fun and publishing them can be a political risk. Imagine the hit piece landing in mailboxes during a campaign: “Pima Community Governing Board: Even they say they suck.”

The idea is to prepare for a new chancellor, who the board is on the verge of hiring.

So kudos, for that. The board was given 31 statements and asked if they strongly agree, disagree or somewhere in between.

The questions range from boring (“The board assures that there are effective planning processes and that resource allocation support institutional plans”) to possibly violating 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination (“I maintain confidentiality of privileged information”).

The best results would be individual board members deciding they, individually, have a lot to work on but their colleagues are great. That’s the sign of a somewhat healthy organization. Conversely, if the individual board members call themselves wonderful but the rest of the board is crap, then we got problems.

I’m going to be so interested to see how this goes.

The board will also vote on whether to provide in-person instruction at a classroom established at he Federal Corrections Institute – Wilmot.

Courses are already available at the prison and now it wants to add another classroom at another part of the prison complex.

To meet accreditation requirements established by The Higher Learning Commission, a new classroom is needed. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will pay for the program.