Tuesday voters in the Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Cave Creek unified school districts go to the polls to decide on school budget overrides to provide free full-day kindergarten for all students, while Cave Creek and Carefree voters will cast ballots in town elections.
The overrides deserve “Yes” votes. Numerous studies by credible researchers have documented many educational benefits to students who undergo a full-day-K program. Far from “babysitting,” as some uninformed critics have called it, full-day-K includes expanded time periods for students to undertake greater learning opportunities in core academic subjects.
As the Tribune’s Andrea Falkenhagen reported on Sunday, such students enter first grade with significantly more and more detailed knowledge than their half-day counterparts.
Even though a state-budget compromise reached last week between the Legislature and Gov. Janet Napolitano includes full-day-K funding, for the near term state money will only pay its costs to schools with high percentages of students receiving federal free or reduced-price lunches. Districts such as those in Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Cave Creek have few such schools, meaning the vast majority would not be eligible for state full-day-K funding for several years.
The overrides are structured so that their cost per taxpayer will be minimal. And in Scottsdale at least, most taxpayers are likely to have no increase in current levies at all due to the likelihood of bonds being refinanced and an expected widening of the tax base.
In addition, Cave Creek voters are being asked to consider several ballot measures. Propositions 403 and 404 would increase the terms of office both of the mayor and of Town Council members from two to four years starting in spring 2007. Council members’ terms would be staggered so that some council seats are to be filled every two years.
Municipal government in the East Valley has become more complex as our communities have grown so rapidly. Thus the learning curve for elected officials has also risen. They are not, after all, U.S. congressmen, who — though they are also elected every two years — have the benefit of huge congressional staffs local town council members lack. Term staggering will provide accountability to voters every two years. Both measures deserve “Yes” votes.
Polls are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.