As staunch advocates for a strong public education system and Republican members of the Arizona State Legislature, we read the recent Arizona Republic My Turn piece “It’s Time for Additional Classroom Time for All of Arizona’s Youngest Students” with great excitement.
The article was thoughtfully and collectively written by business and community leaders Phil Francis, retired CEO of PetSmart, Deb Duvall, executive director of Arizona School Administrators, Brendan Walsh, executive director of Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy, and John Whiteman, retired CEO of Empire Southwest Caterpillar.
As policy makers, we believe the concept of a singularly focused coalition, dedicated to bringing additional classroom time to every kindergartner in Arizona, is well-timed and much-needed. We are committed to working with our colleagues in the Arizona State Legislature and Phoenix attorney Rodney Glassman to help the “ACT for Kindergartners” coalition succeed.
Additional classroom time for kindergartners must be an option for all parents and a responsibility of all public schools.
This January, we will be sponsoring legislation in the Arizona House and Arizona Senate titled “ACT-Additional Classroom Time for Kindergartners.” When signed into law, this legislation will guarantee that every public elementary school kindergartner in the state of Arizona will have the opportunity to receive universal, additional classroom time. It is our goal that our legislation will inspire leaders in the Arizona House and Senate to work collaboratively with our
newly elected governor on identifying the court-ordered $317 million in inflation funding while delivering a valuable academic program to all of Arizona’s kindergartners. While not required, we will encourage school districts and charter schools to use a portion of the inflation funding, ordered by the Arizona Supreme Court, to pay for the additional instruction required.
Just last week, Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey, our Republican nominee for governor, stated, “We must make sure that any new funding for our public schools goes directly into the classroom, identifying what works, and focusing on English literacy for all Arizona students.” No concept more squarely aligns with Ducey’s goals.
We know that our constituents want to direct more funding for education directly into the classroom.
Furthermore, Arizona’s 2010 “Move On When Reading” education reform requires all third graders in Arizona to demonstrate proficiency in reading before moving onto the fourth grade. Universal, additional classroom time for all kindergarten students will guarantee every child in Arizona the opportunity to learn their ABCs, the basic rules of English, and the basic concepts of math.
The majority of Arizona’s public school districts have chosen to reallocate resources from existing programs to provide additional classroom time for kindergarten, highlighting the importance of additional classroom time. As legislators, we are committed to local control when setting policy for educating our students.
Yet, those children who do not receive the proper foundation of a strong early childhood education suffer— often facing greater academic and social challenges as they move forward. Receiving additional classroom time at an early age can no
longer be left to chance, available only for students who happen to live nearby, or accessible to students whose parents are willing to drive to a school that is reallocating resources for this purpose. As policymakers, we must ensure that all Arizona’s kindergartners have access to additional classroom time to learn English and math.
The recent court ruling requiring the state Legislature to increase annual funding to public and charter K-12 schools by $317 million presents the perfect opportunity to provide universal, additional classroom time for kindergartners. This will allow Arizona’s youngest students to access additional instructional time to learn English and math, develop valuable social skills, and be positioned for strong academic futures. Our legislation, the 2015 “ACT Bill – Additional Classroom Time for Kindergartners,” will guarantee all of Arizona’s kindergarten students are provided with the opportunities they deserve for their futures and for the future of our state.
– Rep. Jeff Dial (R), chair, House Higher Education and Workforce Committee, Legislative District 18
– Rep. Brenda Barton (R), chair, House Agriculture and Water Committee, Legislative District 6
– Rep. Karen Fann (R), chair, House Transportation Committee, Legislative District 1
– Rep. Doug Coleman (R), vice-chair, House Education Committee, Legislative District 16