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4/23/2014 9:20:00 AM
Chino Supt. Howard investigates poverty's effect on education
Review/Sue Tone
Chino Valley Unified School District Supt. Duane Howard, left, speaks on the effect of poverty on education at an April 5 League of Women Voters meeting, along with Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Kathleen Murphy, middle, and Gerry Garvey, executive director for Prescott Area Shelter Services.
Review/Sue Tone
Chino Valley Unified School District Supt. Duane Howard, left, speaks on the effect of poverty on education at an April 5 League of Women Voters meeting, along with Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Kathleen Murphy, middle, and Gerry Garvey, executive director for Prescott Area Shelter Services.

Sue Tone
Reporter


How does poverty impact education? The League of Women Voters of Central Yavapai explored that question at its April 5 meeting with a panel of three community leaders: Kathleen Murphy, executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters; Gerry Garvey, executive director for Prescott Area Shelter Services; and Duane Howard, superintendent of Chino Valley Unified School District.

The single most important indicator of students' performance in school is the wealth of the community, Howard said.

"Any superintendent in any school district could tell you that," he added. "Rather than use labels, we could just put out the average income in the community."

Howard provided a handout listing the top A districts in Arizona as determined by the Arizona State Department of Education. They included Cave Creek, Scottsdale, and Fountain Hills, all with an average household income of $94,000.

D schools, on the other end of the student performance scale, averaged a household income of $27,000. Eight of those 16 schools are reservation schools; six are isolated, small and poor, and include Mayer.

The three local school districts earned a B rating with average household incomes for Prescott, $65,000; Prescott Valley (Humboldt Unified School District), $64,000; and Chino Valley, $58,000.

He pointed out that school districts in the Northeastern United States have the highest tax rate, the highest standard of living, and the highest performance in education. Arizona has reduced taxes and legislators continue their education budget cuts.

Taxpayers can use the $200-$400 tax credit program to help their local schools, but that isn't an effective way to support the schools in poorer areas, he said.

"If you're living paycheck to paycheck, writing a school district a check for $400 is really hard to do," he said. "If you're making $25,000 a year, you probably don't pay state taxes."

Howard also added that the state gives charter schools additional money per students because they cannot ask for overrides or bonds.

"But we couldn't pass a bond or an override, and we got squat," he said.

Murphy mentioned an additional link to how well students perform - those children raised by single parents. The percentage rose from 11 percent when she helped found Big Brothers Big Sisters in Prescott 38 years ago to 30 percent today.

"The majority live with their mother, and mothers make less income than fathers," she said, adding that teachers used to be a sole wage earner and could support a stay-at-home parent and children. That is no longer the case.

"Economics is the new segregation in this country," Murphy said.

Garvey, who has spent most of her career working with organizations dealing with poverty, said poverty is not only about life decisions, but also access to resources. "Sometimes you live in the wrong place - the wages are too low," she said.

A recent article in the Daily Courier indicated a job paying $19.30 an hour is a living wage. Two parents making $8 an hour each are still not at a basic living wage, Garvey said. Yet her survey indicates that 42 percent of people living in poverty in this area had some college or training.

"The amount of money you earn above a high school diploma is shrinking," she pointed out. "When the minimum wage is $8 an hour, it's not much. With a college degree, you're lucky to make $12 an hour here."

Garvey would like to see a local conference on banking, housing, transportation and jobs, and to work toward improving resources in the community. Murphy wants to get more facts and information to the public, and less "emotional dogma."

Howard said he was tired of being nice, and he wants supporters of education to be more confrontive and bold with state legislators.








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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, May 9, 2014
Article comment by: Denise Melton

Get rid of Common Core or whatever fancy name Arizona has slapped on it, and I'd be more willing to donate. I'd bet a lot more residents would be willing to do the same if they knew our kids weren't being brainwashed into stupidity.



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