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Our job is to identify quality schools, and fund them

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You often hear the sentiment expressed that education is the great equalizer – that with a diploma in hand, the door is wide-open to a future of possibilities for today’s youth. There’s truth to that saying, but only if the educational quality itself is high across the board. By giving every Arizona student – not just those in the right school district – access to a high quality education, we are giving them the foundation they need for economic independence and to pursue their dreams.

Lisa Graham Keegan

Lisa Graham Keegan

We’ve arrived at the time of year when we ask ourselves, “What’s the best investment we can make this year in education to further this goal for every student?” At A for Arizona, we believe the answer to that question is to invest in quality and those things that will make a high quality classroom available to more Arizona students.

Fortunately in Arizona, we have a public education environment rich in innovative schools that have designed programs and models that deliver quality in many different ways. These models of excellence can be found in charters, traditional district schools, and district magnet schools. They’re in likely and unlikely places: affluent areas and low-income communities, rural, suburban, and urban. The common denominator for all of them is their commitment to excellence.

These diverse leaders are showing us the way to achievement, which is freeing for those of us in the public policy space. It means we can resist the temptation to decide for our schools what the best way is to deliver a quality education. We don’t need to direct schools on how to “offer x” or “expand y,” because there are many different ways to produce achievement and our high performing schools are showing us that.

Instead, our job is to identify quality, fund those schools, help them serve more students, support their mentorship of others who want to improve, and ensure that teachers closing the achievement gap earn a salary that will keep them in the classroom teaching.

For all these reasons and more, I strongly support the results-based funding model in Governor Ducey’s proposed budget, which directs additional dollars to Arizona’s high quality classrooms. These schools and their teachers have earned our investment not just to continue in what they’re doing, but also to reach more kids and to share their models and best practices with other schools.

Lisa Graham Keegan is the executive director of A for Arizona and former Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

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