As superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District, the seventh fastest growing city in the United States, I support and thank Gov. Doug Ducey for his efforts to continue to restore K-12 funding cut during the Great Recession. These restored dollars, along with the need for additional revenue, are critical to move Arizona funding to at least the national average.
During the Great Recession, state resources for public education were significantly decreased, along with enacting some of the most comprehensive educational reforms: more rigorous state standards; new state assessment; a new A-F accountability system; a new principal and teacher evaluation system, as well as other key reforms to education policy.
The governor’s proposal is a step in the right direction to maintain the ability for individual districts to apply these additional dollars to specific needs at the local level, including moving the dollars directed to teacher salaries from last session into the base, which confirms a permanent, ongoing increase. This flexibility allows districts to either fix the leaky roofs, purchase school buses, address critical IT needs, purchase textbooks or apply these dollars to additional teacher and staff compensation.
However, Arizona needs a stable and sustainable revenue stream to ensure all school choice options are addressed and funded. I applaud the efforts from Proposition 123. Yet now, we need to focus on the re-authorization of Proposition 301, which Rep. Doug Coleman has proposed in HB2158 by making the current Proposition 301 dollars permanent and continuing the current policies, and then work in the near future on the need to possibly expand the tax as proposed by the business community and other policy leaders with a focus on potential education policy reforms.
The permanent extension of Proposition 301 this session should be seen as a monumental victory for Arizona’s K-12 public education students. It validates the commitment from the governor and the Legislature that K-12 funding is the number one priority, adds a sense of relief in the education community in the short term, and provides for a more structured focus in discussing next steps seeking a dedicated, stable, sustainable revenue stream.
As I listen to the parents in my community, some recurring themes rise to the top, such as small schools, small class size, art, music and PE, a focus on STEM/STEAM, full day kindergarten, flexibility in school calendars, online options, blended learning, and “innovation and signature programs.” And as I listen to teachers, working conditions are a driver in determining recruitment and retention. While the issue of competitive pay is a primary concern, a complex web of working conditions, student motivation and discipline issues, and teacher preparation factors, coupled with a need for increased support from school administrators, add to the reasons for the shortage crisis.
Governor Ducey set the stage in his State of the State address regarding working together, across the aisle, in a collaborative spirit to ensure Arizona has a positive business climate and a robust education system to attract companies to relocate here. We all understand the value of an appropriately funded P-20 system of public education – districts, charters, community colleges and public universities – is critical to Arizona’s current and future success to accomplish these goals.
I look forward to Arizona continuing to value all students with a focus on student academic achievement for all; restoring dollars cuts during the Great Recession; solving the key “next steps” for a dedicated, stable, sustainable revenue stream for the future of public education; and, ensuring our students are ready for the challenges and opportunities the future holds.
— Kristi Sandvik is superintendent of Buckeye Elementary School District.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.