The budget Gov. Doug Ducey proposed earlier this month calls for significant new resources for Arizona’s K-12 education system. It’s a wise investment. No K-12 system in the country has been moving up the achievement charts like ours.
In his State of the State address the governor said, “The most compelling argument for investing in our schools is that they are improving.”
Arizona’s 4th-graders and 8th-graders have made more gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, also known as the Nation’s Report Card) in math, reading, and science than any other state in the years 2009-2015. If you’re looking for rising achievement, look to Arizona.
The governor understands the good return that comes from investing in what is working. We don’t hear it enough, but educational outcomes in Arizona are not only around the national average, but importantly they’re improving more rapidly than anywhere else in the country. Gov. Ducey is right to seize on that momentum and double down on the good work happening in many of our schools.
The governor’s plan accelerates state investment in our schools to the tune of $400 million in new money, bringing total new dollars directed to K-12 to over $1 billion in his first term. That is a serious investment in classroom needs, teacher pay, and school facilities.
A key component of the Executive proposal is a commitment to full restoration of District Additional Assistance and Charter Assistance Funds—part of our school funding formula previously subject to Recession-era cuts. This would mean $371 million in permanent and flexible monies over five years—beginning with $100 million in the upcoming school year—that will enable schools to put more resources toward teacher salaries. These reductions had been at the center of an ongoing legal battle that should now be put to rest, allowing us to put those dollars to work paying teachers instead of lawyers.
As a chamber executive and as a parent of three school-aged kids attending public schools – all out of their assigned neighborhood school – I’m grateful to see this level of serious investment in K-12 education, with new resources going to strategic areas such as student growth, building renewal, teacher salaries, early literacy, computer science, and Career and Technical Education. Matching continuous achievement with targeted resource infusions into programs such as results-based funding, bonuses for high-schoolers earning college credit, and embracing Arizona’s culture of school choice, is the right way forward.
Arizona students are making real gains and more rapidly than their peers in other states. Our kids and their teachers are worthy of our investment. The governor’s proposal gives us a strong roadmap for restoring and adding new dollars to K-12 schools. The Legislature should adopt his plan so significant new resources will flow into all of our public schools this year.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry