City Speak: Summer 2016 Vol II

SAY “YES” TO OUR SCHOOLS: Our future workforce depends on it

by Robert “Bob” Jackson, Mayor, Casa Grande

Mayor Jackson
Mayor Jackson

While the city really has no authority over the education process, it is a critically important component of economic development. We are constantly being asked about the quality of the workforce – a direct result of education – and the quality of our local schools as a factor in relocating executives for new and existing businesses.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a facility committee for Casa Grande Elementary School District. What an eye-opening experience. There has been a lot of media coverage about the recently- approved Proposition 123 and its role in helping our schools financially. One of the things we learned is the proposition is intended to settle a long-standing lawsuit between multiple school districts and the state. It is intended solely to make up for inflationary operation costs over the past several years.

There is no provision in the current state funding for capital improvements to fix, repair or replace facilities. Think about your house. If you don’t take care of it every year with a new roof, air conditioning, carpeting and such, they wear out. Imagine a school with 500-plus people in it every day, and no money to provide basic repairs.

What we learned in the facility committee is that many of our elementary schools were built prior to 1990, making them at least 25 years old and some, like Casa Grande Middle School, are over 60 years old. Next, think about how much the world has changed in the past 20 years. Google is 10 years old, the Internet has become a daily necessity and sadly, our country has seen multiple armed attacks on our schools.

Casa Grande Elementary has done a great job teaching our kids and keeping the facilities in reasonable shape but the time has come for our citizens to help update and, in some cases, replace our aging school infrastructure to assure a good future workforce.

The culmination of the facility committee is to recommend a ballot measure to the voters to allow the district to sell bonds to update and replace some of our schools. The timing was picked because we can sell the bonds with no increase in property taxes, because we are paying off existing debt. The improvements include improved security at all of the campuses, replacing HVAC systems where needed, modernizing many of the schools that are more than 30 years old and potentially replacing the 60-plus-year-old Casa Grande Middle School and neighboring Saguaro Elementary with a single facility.

It is time to bring our schools into the modern era with proper protection for our kids. It can be done at no additional cost to the taxpayers. The ballot measure is planned to be on the November ballot. Please consider a “yes” vote to enable to continue offering quality education to our kids and grandkids.