Thousands of people took part in the March to Save Our Schools and Support Public Education on Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Arizona State Capitol, just days after AZ Schools Now, a coalition of business, faith, and education groups, presented legislators with options that would invest $1 billion back into K-12 education to provide sustainable, permanent and equitable funding for public schools.
Arizona can’t be successful for fighting for great economic development, if the state continues to rank dead last in education finance, said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at the March to Save Our Schools on Saturday.
“When we rank 50th in teacher pay, when we rank 50th in support of our students, but somehow we’re (U.S. Education Secretary) Besty DeVos’ favorite state, that’s a big problem in the State of Arizona,” Stanton said. “The status quo is unacceptable.”
Arizona companies are totally dependent on a well-educated workforce, said Ed Goff, founder and owner of Blockwise Engineering, a Tempe firm.
“In Arizona, the vast majority of career and technical education happens in public schools. To employ a workforce like I employ, you need highly qualified math and science teachers, you need updated computers, you need AP classes, you need tutoring and magnet programs,” Goff said.
“When we fail to fund our public schools, we are failing to develop the workforce necessary to stay competitive in the national and global economy,” Goff said. “You may hear that companies need tax breaks to invest and grow. It’s just wrong. Our company has no shortage of financial capital. The world is awash in financial capital now. Financial capital is the easy part. Human capital is the hard thing. Human capital is the bottleneck. Let’s not waste any of it.”
It’s time for Arizonans from all political groups to come together and demand more funding for public education, said Patrick Robles, a junior at Sunnyside High School and student body vice president in Tucson.
“I’m asking our state leaders, please don’t leave our schools in tatters. Please consider your legacy and our future. We need you our elected leaders to put ideology aside and realize public education is not the enemy. Public education opens the door to everything for my generation.”
Robles said he is frustrated with the actions of some in the state legislature and the governor.
“I know a lots of other young people who go through public schools, but don’t get the opportunities they deserve due to the lack of funding that the state provides,” Robles said.
It’s time for “our legislators and governor to do right by our public schools and establish a modernized funding mechanism that truly gives students like me, the students here and every student around the state,” the oportunities and support they need, Robles said.
Teachers don’t enter the profession for easy hours and long vacations, “we’re teachers that want to enter this profession to make a difference,” said Arizona Teacher of the Year Josh Meibos.
“We are losing teachers and not being able to get teachers into this state because of the pay levels,” said U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, AZ-District 1. “We have fought for it year after year after year. I’ve seen it in both of these buildings when I was in the legislature and I can tell you that just because they give you money in the process doesn’t mean they make education a priority. It means that they have to do better.”
Minority Whip Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma (District 4) said her constituents want stronger public schools.
“They want to know that when they send their child to school that there is a certified teacher in the classroom,” Fernandez said. “They want to know that their child is not sitting on the floor because there’s not enough desks in the classroom. They want to know that there’s enough textbooks. They want to make sure that all those extracurricular activities that you and I loved – music, P.E., drama – all those things that made us who we are today are there for the next generation.”
Slideshow: Education advocates urge legislators to make education funding a priority this session by Brooke Razo/ASBA and Lisa Irish/AZEdNews