A Q/A with the 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year and Classrooms First Initiative Council Member, Beth Maloney
Governor Doug Ducey’s K-12 education funding plan outlines ways to increase per-pupil funding, a 10 year budget increase without raising taxes, and an infusion of funds from the State Land Trust. The state legislature vowed to consider this plan before it goes to a public vote in May.
In discussions about Governor Ducey’s plan, what issues should Arizona’s legislators take into consideration?
We must pass Prop 123 this May, but we must also pass it only as part of a stronger overall plan to fairly fund our schools. Prop 123 begins to return some of the school funding Arizona’s public schools have been denied for many years by restoring the inflation funding that voters mandated for schools years ago but it does not take Arizona far enough. Legislators should not see Prop 123 as an end but as a step in the right direction toward appropriate funding.
A recent study quoted in the Arizona Republic found that the average Arizona college graduate contributes $660,000 to the economy over his or her lifetime. According to the report and the Arizona Republic breakdown of the study, improvements in K-12 education could improve these statistics even more.
How do you think the Arizona Legislature could respond to those necessary improvements in the coming months?
Every student in Arizona deserves access to a quality education, from the early years through college and career. Our Legislature could help achieve that goal in three specific ways:
First, legislators should begin by investing in an area where we will all get a major return on the investment: our earliest learners. An investment in full-day kindergarten means higher academic achievement and better social skills. It also leads to lower dropout rates and higher lifetime earning potential.
Second, the Legislature should look at funding for higher education. We need to create new pathways for all students, but especially for first generation students to access higher education in Arizona.
And thirdly, it is important to remember that an investment in our teachers is an investment in our students. Legislators should consider funding programs that have proven results for teacher growth, such as the Arizona Master Teacher Program and National Board Certification.
The fact is, it all comes down to how we fund schools in Arizona. An investment in our students is an investment that will benefit everyone in Arizona.
Late last year, the media was flooded with reports of Arizona’s low ranking for public school education funding. The legislature responded quickly with plans to turn the economic situation around.
Have there been continued, constructive conversations in response to that ranking?
Not yet. Currently, there is a bill to cut desegregation funds that provide equitable opportunities for all students and a planned change to move district schools to current year funding. Moving district schools to current year funding would cut funding to more than half the states’ school districts.
And, the Empowerment Scholarship Expansion (ESE) is moving forward in the House and Senate, despite a small margin of interest in the public and a lack of oversight for public monies being used for this program. ESE provides financial assistance from the state general fund to parents who choose to send their child to an education option other than a public school, yet more than 80% of parents in Arizona chose public schools.
Since session started earlier last month, what have you seen or heard from the education committee and from each party that is encouraging?
I’ve seen legislators listening to experts in the field – teachers. Teachers have once again invited Legislators into their classrooms during “Take Your Legislator to School Day” and we are continue to grow our relationships with policymakers. I’ve seen teachers testifying to the House and Senate Education Committees.
Teacher voices are being heard and that makes all the difference for our students.
If you could share your wishes for teachers in Arizona keeping an eye on the news at the Capitol, what would you tell them?
Your voice matters! Learn how to use the Request to Speak System to weigh in on the issues that will affect you and your students. The name is a misnomer – you don’t actually have to speak. Don’t underestimate the importance of an email or phone call to your representatives in your home and school districts.
A conversation that begins with, “My name is….and I am a teacher in your district. Let me explain how this bill will affect the students in my classroom…,” is powerful and won’t be forgotten!
Beth Maloney is the 2014 AEF Arizona Teacher of the Year and member of the Classrooms First Initiative Council, a team of business and education leaders charged with simplifying and modernizing the current school finance code with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to ensure more funding for teachers and classroom instruction.
Maloney is a National Board Certified Teacher currently teaching 5th grade at Sunset Hills Elementary Surprise. She has been teaching for 16+ years and has previously taught kindergarten and third grade.