by Stacy Winstryg

We all know by now that Arizona needs to invest more money into our public schools, but how that will be done is in question. The Classrooms First Initiative Council, which was formed by the governor in May of 2015, has been looking at this very issue. Governor Ducey formed the council in hopes that they would make a recommendation on how to overhaul school funding, without raising taxes or increase educational spending. All of us, but the governor, realize this is impossible, and the council agrees. There is a definite need to increase educational spending in our state in order to increase teacher pay, restore capital budgets, and give our schools greater flexibility on how we spend our education budgets. The council also recommends, with this flexibility, that there be more transparency so parents can see how their local school districts are spending the money.

Governor Ducey was quoted saying “There’s nothing more important in our K-12 education system.” So it seems our governor is saying all the right things, but has offered no recommendations on how to fix the problem. Classrooms First council members heard from teachers that they want to be paid fairly, be seen as a respectable profession and they want the support and training they need to do their jobs, and do them well.

The National Education Association shows the average teacher pay in Arizona is $45,477, compared to $58,064 nationally. In the Vail area, our average is a good $10,000 below the state average. State schools Superintendent Diane Douglas said that without new funding, we will continue to see teachers leaving the professions after their first two years. This is most likely due to lack of pay and lack of respect.

It is a proven fact that a strong education system makes for strong communities, attracts businesses to our state, and raises a strong workforce. The Vail Parent Network has been fighting for that for over a year now and will continue to do so. We will be anxiously waiting this month for the governor’s State of the State address to see if he holds true to his statements about improving education in Arizona. We will be holding him accountable to this promise.

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Lucretia Free