More than six in 10 Arizona voters said education is one of the most important or a very important issue when deciding how to vote in this year’s election, according to an April 2014 poll of 500 likely voters in Arizona conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of Expect More Arizona.
Education and children’s organizations are ensuring Arizona voters have resources to use as they make those decisions in the Aug. 26 primary and Nov. 4 general election.
These non-partisan non-profits are also urging registered voters to get to the polls or mark and return their mail-in ballots.
“In Arizona, we have countless dedicated educators and hard-working students, but they can’t do it alone,” said Pearl Chang Esau, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, which is leading a Vote 4 Education initiative, with the support of several partner organizations. “Our children are counting on us, as voters, to make sure education is a top priority for our elected leaders.”
“This year’s election is critically important to building a world-class education in Arizona,” Esau said. “It is vital that all Arizonans vote in both the primary and general election.”
The goal of Vote 4 Education, which was first launched in during the 2010 election season, is to educate voters and encourage them to make public education a priority when they vote, Esau said. For 2014, the effort encourages Arizonans to vote for candidates who will support and fund four priorities:
- Ensure that every Arizona classroom has a high-quality, well-supported teacher
- Ensure that Arizona children can read proficiently and have high-quality early learning opportunities
- Help educators and students succeed with the higher standards that Arizona has put into place
- Give every Arizona student the opportunity to obtain a college degree, certificate or industry credential
Between now and the primary, Expect More Arizona is teaming with several other organizations in voter awareness and education efforts that include sponsorship of candidate forums focused on education, neighborhood walks, and distribution of non-partisan, education-related voter education materials.
Children’s Action Alliance has been producing “Who’s for Kids and Who’s Just Kidding” every year since 2009 as an educational tool for voters, said Amy Kobeta, vice president of the group that focuses on improving Arizona children’s health, education and security.
“We want to provide a comprehensive analysis of the legislative session and give specific information on how legislators did or did not vote for kids and families,” Kobeta said. “We’ve heard from people across the state that they like the report card and rely on it for good information.”
The report does not endorse any candidates since Children’s Action Alliance is a non-partisan organization.
“We have had circumstances when legislators come to us after the report card is distributed to talk with us about their ‘Grade for Kids,’” Kobeta said. “It’s not just that they are upset about their grade; they want to have a better understanding of our analysis, specifically, how we consider tax and budget issues to be kids issues.”
Another report voters can use as a resource is “How Arizona Legislators Voted in 2014 on High Priority K-12 Education Bills,” by the Friends of ASBA, a 501(c)(4) sister organization of the Arizona School Boards Association.
The report, organized by Arizona’s 30 legislative districts, tracks state legislators’ votes on four issues: funding, standards, vouchers and local control. It also includes voter turnout, partisan split of registered voters, race/ethnicity of total population and children, school districts represented and the number of children living in poverty in the area.
“It’s a powerful new combination that we hope will inspire discussion – among community members, and between voters and their legislators,” said Tim Ogle, executive director of Friends of ASBA and the Arizona School Boards Association, who noted the report is factual and non-partisan and does not endorse candidates.
Kobeta said producing voter education materials is important because candidates will not say they do not support children or education. The information provided through these education initiatives helps voters ask specific questions, such as what a candidate would do to improve education and where he or she stands on funding child care vouchers, abuse prevention programs or literacy tutors, Kobeta said.
“Gubernatorial candidates are talking about education – which is clearly a top children’s issue – but they not talking about ways to help kids grow up to be healthy, safe and successful,” Kobeta said. “There is a real need for candidates to understand why investing in children is so important to our communities and economy. Children’s Action Alliance is glad to have partners like Arizona School Boards Association in this effort.”
Expect More Arizona suggests voters ask several questions as well:
- How will you ensure that every Arizona classroom has a high-quality, well supported teacher?
- How will you ensure that every Arizona child can read proficiently and has high-quality early learning opportunities?
- What will you do to help educators and students succeed with the higher education standards that Arizona has put in place?
- What will you do to give every Arizona student the opportunity to obtain a college degree, certificate or industry credential?
- Are there sufficient resources to support student and teacher success in Arizona? Why or why not? What are your ideas for education funding?
The Arizona We Want Institute sponsored a forum for gubernatorial candidates in June, and partnered with Expect More Arizona, St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, SpeakOut Arizona and a several other non-profits on a voter outreach initiative to increase participation in the primary using education as the motivating force, said Darcy Renfro, director of the organization that mobilizes foundations, organizations, businesses and citizens to achieve goals to move Arizona forward.
“We have received a very good response to our efforts to inform Arizonans about where candidates stand on the issues most important to them,” Renfro said. “By increasing overall civic engagement while at the same time elevating education issues, we can start to see the culture shift necessary in our state to achieve our shared vision for a world-class education. Without it, we will not meet the goals of our citizens.”
Renfro suggested people get involved by volunteering for the Aug. 9 Day of Action where volunteers will canvass key neighborhoods in Scottsdale and Casa Grande, sharing information with personal and professional networks about candidates’ positions and why voting in the primary is important, and then making sure to vote on Aug. 26.
“Education underpins all of the goals of The Arizona We Want 2.0 established through the Gallup Arizona Poll to understand what the citizens of Arizona want for our state,” Renfro said. “Education impacts civic, economic and overall health and well-being of all Arizonans.