Pressure on Gov. Ducey to put more money into Arizona schools continues to grow. On the heels of the AZ Kids Can't Wait report from the state's superintendent, a panel the governor selected to review public education funding cut to the chase quickly- schools aren't getting what they need.
There were 12 recommendations included in the panel's report, including one to increase teachers' salaries to help with on-going retention problems.
None of this should be news to the governor. Even when he began touting his Prop. 123 plan, which repaid a portion of the money the state illegally withheld from public schools, he said it would be a first step. Recently, he told reporters he would ask for additional money for schools when he releases his budget soon. He did not say how much he would ask for, or how it would be distributed. But at least this response was more appropriate than when his spokesman said a study showing Arizona's schools system is fourth worst in the nation was "baloney."
If the governor really is committed to a second step, the AZ Schools Now coalition, a growing collection of education and community groups, has a long-term, sustainable revenue plan for education that will focus on three key areas:
- Restoring funding for classroom supplies, updated technology and textbooks. This would require restoring district additional assistance.
- Sustaining a workforce of quality, certified and caring teachers in the classroom by investing in competitive salaries and professional development.
- Restoring capital funding to give our students schools and classrooms that are safe, clean and functional places to learn.
With so many people demanding that school funding be a priority, maybe the Republican leaders will finally create a budget that truly reflect the priorities of Arizonans. Currently, per-pupil spending in Arizona is among the lowest in the country. That needs to change immediately, if we expect our students to be prepared for the future and for our economy to grow.