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Let’s agree – greater education funding will lead to greater quality

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If you’ve ever tried to get your family to agree on anything, you know it can be a daunting task. It doesn’t matter if it’s what’s for dinner or which movie to watch – everyone has a preference, and it can be difficult to reach a consensus.

Now, imagine trying to get everyone in Arizona to agree on something. There is no doubt that there will be plenty of conflicting opinions and points of view.

Rebecca Gau

Rebecca Gau

That being said, based on a recent poll we released, it seems like we are getting closer to reaching universal support for additional education funding than we’ve ever been – currently, 78 percent of Arizonans agree our schools need more. Put in other words, about four out of every five Arizonans see a need for more public school funding.

It’s no secret – we’re facing an education funding crisis, and Arizonans understand the need to turn things around because the current direction is unsustainable. As this legislative session gets going, we can’t forget that the need for greater education funding should go hand in hand with improvements in quality in our classrooms. For example, it is time to ask some hard questions about current practices, given that half of our third-graders aren’t reading on grade level. To better support our struggling readers, we need targeted dollars to ensure they are reading on grade level.

Finally, something is not right when droves of excellent and qualified teachers are leaving the state or the profession altogether. To recruit and retain great teachers, we must be able to pay them a competitive salary. While we’re talking about teachers, we also can’t forget about Proposition 301, a sales tax currently generating approximately $600 million for education every single year. Unless it’s renewed, it’s set to expire in 2021. If we allow this to happen, it will set us back even further, leading to a further decrease in teacher salaries.

Though Governor Ducey’s education funding plan announced earlier this week is a step in the right direction and deserves credit for addressing this crucial issue, it can’t stop there.

If we as Arizonans are committed to finding real solutions for our education funding crisis, it’s going to take all of us coming together. We must put our kids before partisan and personality politics and do what’s right. That’s why we’re willing to work with anyone to make sure that we’re increasing both education funding and the quality of education our students are receiving.

— Rebecca Gau is executive director of Stand for Children Arizona.

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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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