Home > Education, Elected Officials, FUSD, New Media, Politics > FUSD To Ask Voters To Approve Another Override

FUSD To Ask Voters To Approve Another Override

By Elisha Dorfsmith

Flagstaff Unified School District is preparing for yet another tax override vote and that means voters should start preparing for another round of scare tactics and fear mongering from the district.

Today’s edition of the Arizona Daily Sun lays out the details of the plan in an article titled FUSD readies return to voters. In addition to an override vote next year, there are plans for several bond measures to be on the ballot.

As some of you know, I helped lead the charge against the last override and even though it ended up passing, those of us who took a stand were able to educate voters about the waste and irresponsible spending in the district.  Now, more than ever, people are watching the district closely and questioning their mismanagement.

As we head into the 2012 election cycle, please keep the following in mind:

Even the Arizona Daily Sun had to admit that FUSD used scare tactics in order to pass the last override.

FUSD overcollected $1.5 million dollars and refused to refund it.

While threatening cuts to core programs and staff, FUSD was able to find $116,000 in override money for sports trips.

Enrollment is way down at FUSD.

The FUSD budget increased as student population declined.

Four schools have closed saving the district millions.

Charter schools do not get tax overrides and other special treatment.

Property taxes will increase.

The United States spends the most on education but test scores continue to fall.

A few months ago, a friend of mine who is a teacher in the district posted the following in a public forum:

“The Director of Budget also mentioned that another override would again be voted on in 2012. After trying to pump up faculty and staff to get more community members registered to vote so it passes easily, I asked him if the district was prepared to push to get the override on the ballot again as soon as possible (like was done last time around) if it were to be voted down in 2012. He laughed off the suggestion and said Flagstaff historically passes overrides. Last time around people just weren’t paying attention.”

FUSD is working hard behind the scenes to make sure voters pass this override and that means we will have to fight even harder to make sure it fails. As the election gets closer I will be reviving my PAC against the override, encouraging voters to write the paper explaining why they are opposed to another override, and going door to door asking voters to vote no. I hope you will join me.

In the meantime, please consider joining the Flagstaff Residents Against the FUSD Override Facebook Page.

02-16-2012 UPDATE: Today’s edition of the Arizona Daily Sun shows that FUSD lost 622 more students this year.  With enrollment way down, staff reduced, and schools closed, why does the district need another tax override?

People are leaving the district because FUSD is spending money on distractions rather than education. Why should we reward them with more money to mismanage?

03-01-2012 UPDATE: FUSD is really going overboard with the fear mongering in today’s edition of the Arizona Daily Sun. This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic and predictable.


  1. November 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Well I suppose if education wasn’t the default area that state and federal budget cuttters constantly hit first then our schools would not have a need to ask for more. Education is the punching bag for budgetary cuts and it has shown in the rankings of the quality of the American educational system in the world. Given our world leader status it’s a dire shame that we rank so low in education.

  2. November 27, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Spending on education has steadily gone up while the quality of education has steadily gone down. We have a broken education system. Throwing money at a broken system fixes nothing.

  3. November 27, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    “Spending on education has steadily gone up…”

    Not according to fact checks; http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/azfactcheck/fact-story.php?id=147

  4. November 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Here’s some fact checks for ya:

    Education Spending Up 64% Under No Child Left Behind But Test Scores Improve Little:


    Spending per student in 1970 was $4,060. Spending per student in 2004-2005 was $9,266. Figures were adjusted for inflation (of course).

    “Many people believe that lack of funding is a problem in public education,[10] but historical trends show that American spending on public education is at an all-time high. Between 1994 and 2004, average per-pupil expenditures in American public schools have increased by 23.5 percent (adjusted for inflation). Between 1984 and 2004, real expenditures per pupil increased by 49 percent.[11] These increases follow the historical trend of ever-increasing real per-student expenditures in the nation’s public schools. In fact, the per-pupil expenditures in 1970-1971 ($4,060) were less than half of per-pupil expenditures in 2005-2006 ($9,266) after adjusting for inflation.[12]”

    While spending per pupil has more than doubled, reading scores have remained relatively flat.


    I have dozens of links if you decide to question my above sources. I’ve been collecting this information for several years.

  5. November 27, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Here’s another excellent article and graph that puts things in perspective:


  6. November 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Here’s a chart on Arizona spending (and again, while spending is below the national average, spending has steadily increased):

  7. November 28, 2011 at 12:26 am

    You refer to many national spending averages but that for Arizona is more telling in this case. It’s interesting how the cato institute and the heritage foundation all offer you the stats you agree with. Please consider the source. These are both highly biased “think-tanks” which makes their conclusions just as suspect.

    I provided you a non-biased source with no partisan allegiances. This speaks more to its credibility.

  8. November 28, 2011 at 7:28 am

    OK, let’s look at the source you gave: a quote by Democratic state representative candidate Angela Cotera. Non partisan? Interesting.

    Are you disagreeing with the US Department of Education statistics quoted in the articles I posted? Can you show me graphs that show spending on education (nationally and in Arizona) going down since 1970?

    I didn’t think so.

    Here’s the same statistics from a non-biased source:


  9. Ken
    November 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Good morning!

    I see numerous sources citing the increased spending, both nationally and within Arizona. How do you determine that “…the quality of education has steadily gone down?” I am curious; I know that significant efforts are being made to address the quality of education.

    On a side note: when two sources offer conflicting data, the lazy response is to dismiss one based on its source; accusations of bias tend primarily to indicate one’s own. Identify where the data is faulty; it is possible that *both* sources are inaccurate.

  10. November 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Hi Ken,

    The source I quote is directly from the statistics the Department of Education uses:


    As far as quality going down, I think this may answer your question:


    I have other sources which I will post this afternoon when I get a chance to dig them up.

  11. November 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    “Can you show me graphs that show spending on education (nationally and in Arizona) going down since 1970? I didn’t think so. ”

    A little premature for your conclusion that I cannot provide such sources. Here’s a very detailed report put out by ASU’s School of Business which, as you will see, provides you with all the charts you desire illustrating the significant decreases in education spending in Arizona.

    A Report from the Office of the University Economist
    January 2009

  12. November 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    That is very detailed and I need to explore it more. What I see immediately is that it points out that Arizona spending is simply not increasing as much as other states. That still does not mean that dollar for dollar (adjusted for inflation) spending is actually going down. Here’s a chart that shows M&O funding going up:


    I’ll be posting more links as I dissect this more.

    • November 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      Here is a quote from the summary section which goes beyond AZ spending being less than other states and states it has been decreasing.

      “Instead, per student public funding for education — total current operations spending from all
      funds by all state and local governments, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau — is among the lowest in the country in Arizona. Expressed per student per $1,000 of personal income, funding has dropped significantly over time (Census Bureau data go back to 1964), relative to past spending in Arizona and relative to the change in spending over time in other states. Education funding per student per $1,000 of personal income is low and falling for public elementary and secondary education and for public higher education.”

      There is much more detail later on that really does contradict the assertion that there is an increase education spending in AZ.

      • November 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm

        Read my posts below (with sources). The dollar amount per student is going up. District budgets are going up. The percentage of the total state budget may be going down but so is student enrollment. As the Arizona population ages, more money is going toward other services.

        Bottom line, the FUSD budget is continuing to go up while enrollment declines. I asked you a question before but I’ll ask it again:

        If Flagstaff’s district student population fell by 50% should FUSD still receive the same amount of funds or would we be justified in cutting their budget some?

  13. November 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    OK, this is what I’m getting out of your study. Per student spending is going up but if you look at spending in terms of percentage of the overall budget it appears to be going down. Well, that’s for obvious reasons. Our population is getting older. More of our state budget is going toward senior citizens.


    Again, spending for education (per student) is going up. During this whole conversation I have not looked at it in terms of the overall budget because a lot of factors come into play.

    Here’s a hypothetical, if Flagstaff’s district student population fell by 50% should they still receive the same amount of funds or would we be justified in cutting their budget some?

  14. Ken
    November 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I don’t argue that spending isn’t going up–I’d be surprised if it was not. But as far as addressing the decrease in quality specific to Arizona, I don’t see it here. The article that you present compares scores nationwide to those of other countries; Arizona isn’t mentioned. Indeed, if student performance in Arizona *was* improving, it wouldn’t be cited in the article.

    Further, if the quality of education is *not* going up in Arizona, then the charters aren’t working. Charter students take the same standardized test that public school students do; this rising tide should be lifting all of our boats.

    Of course, if one is to rely on AIMS scores as a resource, then one concedes that they have at least *some* validity. I don’t know where you stand on that. But I don’t see any evidence that the quality of public education is decreasing, neither locally nor statewide.

  15. November 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I’m sorry Ken, I misunderstood your original question. I did not realize you were asking for an Arizona specific answer. The only statistics I have saved are national statistics.

    The quality of education in Arizona and Flagstaff may very well be increasing. How do we gauge it?

    I’m certainly not a fan of AIMS testing or any federal standards being pushed on the states but unfortunately, testing is one of the few tools we have to measure success and failure.

    If one were to judge success by the new state grading system they would see that charter schools generally do better than district schools. FUSD got a C overall.


  16. November 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Back to spending, here’s a great link showing the FUSD budget increasing while student population went down:


    Note the achievement section. Some test scores have improved slightly while others have gone through the floor. Again, I’m not a huge fan of focusing on test scores so take them for what they’re worth.

  17. Ken
    November 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Can you agree, then, that there is not sufficient data available to conclusively state that the quality of education in Arizona is decreasing? I do believe that this is not the case; I would not, however, go so far as to say that there is a link between the money going in and the quality of instruction.

    We do have few tools that measure our students’ success with inarguable accuracy. The AIMS is useful, just as a blood pressure cuff is a useful tool for a physician. It measures one thing, and as important as that thing is, it does not provide a complete picture of a patient’s health. The AIMS measures one dimension of our students’ abilities; while we cannot do without it, we also cannot do with it alone.

  18. November 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Yes, I can agree that I have not seen sufficient data for Arizona specifically but as I said before, how do we measure it? I think we need to find other ways to more accurately determine students’ success but I honestly don’t have a clue as to how it could be done correctly.

    If test scores are not an acceptable way to measure the quality of education then we need to look past Arizona and question whether American students are really behind students in other countries or not. If we’re behind many countries in science and math scores would it be illogical to conclude that we’re not number one? If we continue to fall behind in the test scores would it be illogical to say that the quality of education is decreasing?

    Most analysts accept test scores as an accurate measurement and I think they would be able to make the case that the quality of education in Arizona district schools is decreasing. Falling test scores would be their evidence.

    Here’s a question. What is your evidence that the quality of education in Arizona is increasing?

  19. Ken
    November 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I lack any passable evidence; this is why I’m more likely to say that I *feel* that it is improving, rather than stating conclusively that it is. I know that the focus is on the lowest-performing students and how to improve their academic performance (and, consequently, theit AIMS scores). I believe this to be the best (if not the only) way to address the issue, particularly with the state-imposed guidelines under which we must operate.

    I’d compare our role to being on a fire crew, on the border of a forest fire; while I lack a seat in the helicopter, and this cannot say the fire is going out, I know that we are at the edge of the fire with our gear, doing what should be done to combat it.

    I would suggest that the best way to measure the quality of education is to continue to employ testing, and for those students whose test results do not seem to accurately reflect their actual abilities, follow up with sampling from classroom work, offering an opportunity to give oral presentation, and to offer alternative measures with similarly stringent controls to mitigate the possibility of cheating on the part of student or staff. Such an approach would give a more accurate measure, but would also cost more, which would move many to oppose it. Standardized testing is also a cheap method of measuring student knowledge.

  20. SlimStrontem
    March 26, 2012 at 3:09 am

    “We need enough money to pay the school bills.”
    “Let’s use that money to pay get the parents out of their kids medical treatments.”
    “Let’s tell the stupid sons-o-beaches we need more money! Ha ha ha ha ahhhaa ha!”
    I “feel” that taking direction from a chopper command group who is previously known to:
    Give bad assessments, be insanely ambitious for the sake of appearances, command wasteful use of resources for ineffective strategies, negotiate paths for their own lack of accountability, and who’s ever-recurring call is for even More resources–
    Is pretty danged dumb. Under such command circumstances: The ground crew should manage the fire on their front, with their own reasoning, and in their own way.
    Background Education for Everyone:
    On Education: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL463AA90FD04EC7A2
    Think about it.

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