Tom Durham, Tammy Caputi, Wayne Schutsky, Guy Phillips, Becca Linnig, Bill Crawford, Betty Janik, John Little, Kevin Maxwell, Michael Auerbach

(from left to right, top to bottom): Tom Durham, Tammy Caputi, Wayne Schutsky, Guy Phillips, Becca Linnig, Bill Crawford, Betty Janik, John Little, Kevin Maxwell, Michael Auerbach. 

At a candidate forum earlier this month, Scottsdale’s City Council hopefuls discussed the relationship between the city and local schools districts and staked out their positions on a range of recent hot-button issues, from Prop 420 to Southbridge Two.

Though the city has no official role in the administration of school districts, Scottsdale’s leaders have historically had strong ties with Scottsdale Unified in the form of joint committees and other political support.

Councilman Guy Phillips, who is running for re-election, pointed out that the city still has an ongoing relationship with SUSD in the form of intergovernmental contracts that allow for shared resources.

For instance, over the past three years the district and city have agreed to at least a half dozen IGAs for shared use of facilities, including for the development and joint use of Apache Park. 

But others would like to see more cooperation.

Kevin Maxwell, whose wife Bronwyn Maxwell is a special education teacher in SUSD, worked on the Yes to Children PAC that advocated for the passage of SUSD’s budget override last year.

“I’m absolutely supportive of (SUSD), and if you look at the Scottsdale Education Association website, I have a statement up there saying so,” Maxwell said.

Both Tammy Caputi and Bill Crawford connected the city-district relationship with the city’s overall health.

“Young families and businesses, of course, consider the quality of schools when they think about relocating to our city,” Caputi said. “We need to have collaboration between our city leaders, our schools and we should even be partnering with (Scottsdale Community College).”

Crawford admitted it is a complicated issue because Scottsdale is home to so many districts.

In addition to SUSD, the city is also home to parts of the Paradise Valley Unified School District, Cave Creek Unified School District and Balsz School District along with a dozen or so private and charter schools.

“So you can’t do everything for all, but the schools that are within our boundaries, we can certainly do a lot to help, because we’re going to get better citizens for the city of Scottsdale if we do everything we can to help our school district,” Crawford said.

Betty Janik and John Little both called for the city to include an education element in the general plan.

Little cited a study from the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University from 2003 that highlighted the need to close widening gaps in educational attainment between the city’s northern and southern regions.

“So I proposed almost a year ago now to have a general plan incorporate an education element, and I’m glad to hear that it’s getting some traction,” Little said.

Janik said that incorporation could result in increased sharing of facilities like libraries and science labs.

The city did operate the Palomino Library at Desert Mountain High School for many years, but both sides agreed to transition the space to a school-only library operated by the district and city operations ceased at the location on May 21.

“I think that we need to put elements in the general plan that address unifying the city with the schools, because without a strong school system you don’t have the strongest city you possibly could have,” Janik said.

Tom Durham, who coaches a mock trial team at a local high school, also said the city should incorporate education into the General Plan.

But other candidates brushed off the question, saying the current Council race should not be about school districts because they do not fall under city authority.

“I think what this question is really about is financial support…these are two separate entities,” Phillips said. “The school board gets their funding from one place and the city gets its funding from another and I don’t think they should be co-mingled.”

Public school districts derive their funding from property taxes that are allocated though formulas set at the state level and fall under the authority of their local governing boards, the Maricopa County School Superintendent and the Arizona Department of Education.

Noting there will be a school board election in November, Michael Auerbach said. “Several of my opponents talk a lot about education, well maybe they may be in the wrong race and want to reconsider running for school board.”

“City council has to deal with public safety, finances, education, and all other business operations and permitting of the city,” Auerbach said.

Linnig, an SUSD parent for 20 years, said she supports giving school stakeholders a seat at the table moving forward.

“But however, I agree, this is not a city council issue,” Linnig said.

The candidates were also asked a handful of yes or no questions during a lightening round on a handful of contemporary hot button issues.

Did you vote yes or no on Prop 420?

Yes: Auerbach, Caputi, Crawford, Durham, Janik, Little, Phillips

No: Linnig, Maxwell

Did you vote yes or no on Scottsdale’s most recent bond package?

Yes: Caputi, Crawford, Durham, Janik, Linnig, Little, Maxwell, Phillips

No: Auerbach

Did you support a public vote on Southbridge Two?

Yes: Auerbach, Durham, Janik, Linnig, Maxwell, Phillips

No: Caputi, Crawford, Little

Do you support legalization of recreational marijuana?

Yes: Caputi, Little, Maxwell

No: Auerbach, Durham, Janik, Linnig, Phillips

Crawford did not answer the question directly, only responding “it’s coming.”

Did you support the most recent budget override in your school district?

Yes: Caputi, Crawford, Durham, Janik, Linnig, Little, Maxwell, Phillips

No: Auerbach

There has not been a budget override election in Durham’s home district, Cave Creek Unified School District, since he moved there in 2017. The last override election in CCUSD failed in 2015.

In response, Durham said “When you asked that question, my mind naturally focused on the most recent override, which was the recent override for SUSD. I was in favor of that override but since I am in the Cave Creek district, I couldn’t vote on it. Sorry for the mistake.”