SOLUTIONS FOR SOUTHERN ARIZONA
K-12 and higher education represents over half of the state budget. I am a parent with children attending public schools. I am a secondary math and science teacher with over 16 years experience in both traditional public and charter schools. I currently teach in a math credit recovery program at Amphi HS in Tucson. I have been an active leader in both my local and state professional organizations, including a term on the board of directors for the Arizona Education Association. I have the experience and expertise to be a leader in a meaningful transformation of Arizona’s public education system.
1. Local Control
Particularly at the K-12 level, to much policy has been mandated by the State. While the State should outline broad objectives and set academic standards; local districts, colleges and universities need more flexibility to meet those objectives in ways best suited to their structure and the demographics of populations they serve.
2. Assessment and Accountability
Our state needs to have an honest discussion about assessment of academic performance.
Unfortunately through a combination of “No Child Left Behind” and the State’s interpretation of that federal legislation, too much effort and resources have been diverted from focusing on actual gains in educational outcomes and instead been directed towards a numbers game around standardized test results.
With the passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, replacing NCLB, States now have some authority to redesign assessment systems. Schools and districts, particularly those serving economically distressed populations, need increased flexibility to meet the needs of their students and communities.
3. Public School Funding
Arizona is not currently meeting its obligations to public education. Money alone will not improve education. Yet no system can improve or maintain its quality of service if basic needs are not being met.
The public school finance system is too complicated. Over the past few decades, the legislature and the voters have enacted a multitude of measures to support public schools without addressing the base support level. This has lead to confusion and mistrust by the public, especially when school funding figures are spun to further political agendas. In an open and honest conversation about how Arizona can meet its constitutional obligation to provide for public education, no portions of the current system should be held sacred. However this can only be accomplished if all stakeholders can trust that everyone at the table is dedicated to the goal of great public schools.
This last session, we made significant progress towards solving our school funding issues. With the restoration of career and technical education funding (JTED’s) and the passage of Prop. 123 we have reversed the funding trend. However we still have a lot of work to do.
4. Community Involvement
Ultimately, meaningful reform requires community involvement. Efforts to increase the competitiveness and effectiveness of educational organizations are best lead by the professionals within those organizations working with students, parents and community leaders. It is the State legislature’s role to provide a framework for that to occur. It cannot simply mandate that it occur.
Leadership is needed to foster a collaborative relationship between the State, counties, cities, towns and school districts to address Arizona's critical infrastructure needs and create an environment and public attitude that will encourage employers to locate in Arizona. This is particularly important in Southern Arizona.
As one of the few Representatives from Southern Arizona serving in the majority, with the ability to move and shape legislation, I take representing the people and communities of our region seriously. My opponents, however well intentioned, will simply not be invited to some of the most important meetings that happen at the legislature; those that take place in the majority caucus conference room.
Of the three things needed to create jobs; capital, management and labor, the State can have the largest impact by supporting efforts to ensure a qualified work force. Supporting options for vocational and technical education must be among the priorities as Arizona moves forward.
Another key component is transportation infrastructure. Southern Arizona is a vital commerce corridor and is positioned to see growth in logistics operations. Improved access to markets will also attract manufacturing companies. We must find the resources to repair and improve our transportation infrastructure to meet our current and future needs.
We must also create an environment and public attitude that will encourage employers to locate in Arizona with confidence that the State in cooperation with other jurisdictions will expedite and assist with regulatory processes. Part of this effort needs to be an examination of existing regulations to ensure their necessity.
Of course Arizona’s tax system needs to be addressed. We need to fundamentally rethink how we approach budgeting and taxation. First by asking how much State services will cost and how can we pay for them. Then having an honest conversation to set priorities. A key step in this process is to bring the budgeting process out from behind closed doors.