Empowering All Arizonans with a Top-Notch Education

PUTTING STUDENTS FIRST, EMPOWERING PARENTS, SUPPORTING TEACHERS

Introduction

We need to demonstrate a strong commitment to public education. Ensuring that all Arizonans have the opportunity to receive a top-notch public education means putting students first, giving parents educational options that suit their families’ needs, and attracting and supporting dedicated, talented teachers.

As parents, we all seek to provide the highest quality education for our children – to pass on our history and values to the next generation, and to give them the knowledge and skills that empower them for future success.

The focus of Arizona’s public education system, from kindergarten through higher education, should be heightening student success, not on satisfying the whims of teachers union bosses. Too often, political actors have allowed our schools to become vehicles for various forms of “social engineering” and “progressive reform” agendas that are often directly opposed to the values of our students, parents, and communities.

At the end of the day, public education is a local issue that should not be subject to undue outside and political interference. Parents should always be able to engage in school board debates freely and without fear of retribution.

That’s why, on October 18 of this year, I urged the Arizona School Boards Association to formally withdraw its affiliation with the National School Boards Association after the latter asked the Biden Administration for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s assistance in “dealing with” parents who sought to address local school board meetings. I was appalled to learn that the National School Boards Association had likened concerned parents who are exercising their constitutional rights to extremists and domestic terrorists.

The National School Boards Association’s letter was an insulting attempt to deny parents their free speech rights and to make local school policies dependent upon the will of unelected bureaucrats, all with the aid and support of the federal government. I will not tolerate government being weaponized against law-abiding citizens and will not tolerate these threats against parents.

I am passionate about strengthening our public schools and broadening educational opportunities for Arizona’s children. It is a cause that I’ve pursued throughout my entire career in public service.

As a state senator, I introduced one of the first-ever school choice proposals in Arizona, and I support expanding the Education Savings Account program to every student in the state.

I served on the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee for four years during my recent tenure in Congress, and my service on the committee provided me the opportunity to learn more about which reforms work – and which have not worked – in schools throughout the nation. As Arizona’s next governor, I will put that experience to work for you.

In Congress, I consistently supported legislation to improve the operations of and expand access to charter schools. I introduced block-grant funding mechanisms to eliminate the federal education bureaucracy and return those tax dollars to states on a per-student basis. And I endorsed Proposition 123 in order to provide more funding for public education by responsibly leveraging the sale of State Trust Lands.

At the end of the day, a well-educated workforce is a key ingredient in our state’s continued economic development, and schools can be one of the chief vehicles to address this need. My ‘Economy and Workforce Policy Paper’ (released last month) highlighted a number of these important education components, many of which were transferred to and are expanded upon in the policy paper below.

My ultimate vision as governor is a robust education system that puts student success first; empowers parents to make the best choices for their children; and attracts, retains, and rewards the very best teachers, giving every student in our state a clear pathway to a successful future.

Observations

Our public education system is vital to the future of our children and state’s economy as a whole. However, I believe that our schools aren’t doing as well as they could be.

In its most recent Postsecondary Attainment Report, the Arizona Board of Regents determined that our statewide educational attainment rate is below the national average and that the rate at which Arizona students pursue post-secondary education varies widely across different communities. This assessment reflects a real shortcoming in placing student success at the center of our education system.

“Ultimately, we must answer a key question: Who do we prioritize? Do we put the needs of bureaucratic systems and unions first, or do we emphasize those of parents whose first concern is for their children’s future success?”

– Jaime Molera, Former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

Our public education system is bogged down with antiquated and unproductive regulatory requirements that funnel students and money into poorly performing schools without providing incentives for improvement or a means of holding administrators accountable for inadequate results.

As governor, I will demand a clear commitment to student success at every level. Not only do we need to adopt more transparent and objective means of measuring school performance and ensuring accountability, but I am also a staunch supporter of parents’ rights to choose the best educational options for their children. Ensuring flexibility for parents means supporting school choice – from charter schools to micro-schools and more – and implementing universal Education Savings Accounts.

Education Savings Accounts benefit both schools and parents. They offer schools an incentive to improve, and they offer parents the option to “vote with their feet” by moving their children and hard-earned tax dollars to better-performing schools.

Arizona’s schools must provide a pathway to success for every single student. That means strengthening our special education and early literacy programs so that every child is “Ready to Read” ahead of the national average.

Like other states, we experience a digital divide, with many schools not having adequate access to high-quality digital devices and Internet connectivity. The $100 million commitment announced by Governor Doug Ducey this month, known as the Arizona Broadband Development Grant Program, will go a long way in expanding high-speed broadband throughout our state, and I promise to build on this forward-thinking investment. Providing our schools with these resources will not only facilitate greater learning opportunities for students but also will allow these students to master the skills and competencies vital for success in the new economy.

Our education policies must support our workforce development goals, too. As Arizona’s economy advances, it is expected that more and more jobs will require a college degree or professional training after high school, and helping men and women meet this standard will be the key to shaping the state’s economic future.

We need to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, especially at secondary and post-secondary institutions, in order to attract students to degree programs in high-value industries. I will advocate for better vocational training programs to strengthen the workforce necessary for maintaining and expanding an advanced industrial infrastructure in Arizona.

A strong education system demands the presence of dedicated, talented teachers. Yet many teaching vacancies in Arizona remain unfilled, compensation lags that in competing states, and educators’ freedom to deploy innovative teaching methods often is unduly hindered by bureaucratic restrictions.

As governor, I’ll build on the work that has be done by the current administration and put compensation and benefits packages for Arizona’s teachers on par with those of other states and ensure they have the freedom and resources to best meet students’ academic needs.

Resource management is critical to our public education system, as the Grand Canyon State administers more than nine million acres of State Trust Lands. Releasing state-administered land holdings in a responsible manner would help fund education reform efforts and much-needed workforce training programs.

We need to pursue policies that create meaningful methods of accountability in order to make a real difference in students’ futures. With today’s sophisticated technology, there is no reason that schools cannot utilize real-time tools like benchmarking to offer parents immediate information about their children’s progress and achievement – empowering them to make the best decisions for their children in real time rather than only once per year.

It is key that any accountability model be focused on individual student growth so that teachers are incentivized to always be improving and so that schools are held accountable for each student achieving a minimum of one year’s academic growth for each year that student is in school.

Initial Recommendations

Adhere to Meaningful Accountability as a Means of Achieving Academic Achievement, Put Students at the Center of Learning, And Make Student Success Our Number-One Priority

As governor, I will demand a clear commitment to student success at every level.

  • Adopt transparent, objective educational assessment systems to increase student performance, spur school improvement, and hold administrators accountable for results.
  • Pursue policies that place a high value on meaningful accountability so that our children receive the education we know they deserve and so that teachers and school districts are incentivized to always be improving in real time, not just once per year.
  • Ensure that the content of our kindergarten to 12th grade curriculum and the credentials that our children earn are aligned with the opportunities, challenges, and skills requirements of the new economy.
  • Support personalized learning models that allow students to best utilize their time at school building the skills they need the most.
  • Implement a comprehensive early literacy program that ensures all students are “Ready to Read” ahead of the national average.
  • Bridge the digital divide by guaranteeing that students in the Grand Canyon State have adequate access to high-quality digital devices and Internet connectivity.
  • Strengthen STEM programs, especially at secondary and post-secondary institutions, and continue to build on successes, such as our universities’ “New Economy” initiative.
  • Improve test scores in core disciplines, including mathematics and English and language arts, and calibrate testing methods to better measure student competency in each discipline rather than measuring the ‘ability to take tests.’
  • Emphasize the importance of core competencies, such as civics, and permanently prohibit the instruction of Critical Race Theory, a concerning political agenda that suggests to children that they and their country are inherently discriminatory.
  • Support and strengthen special education to ensure every single child is afforded an opportunity for a successful, meaningful future.
  • Advocate aggressively for vocational training programs to ensure that all children have a pathway to a good-paying career helping build strong middle-class families.

Honor And Empower Parents and Their Children

Arizona leads the nation in educational flexibility. As governor, I’ll ensure our educational policies build on success and empower parents to make the best choices for their children.

  • Establish universal Education Savings Accounts to provide families with flexible funding to match their unique needs.
  • Develop and foster micro-schools to offer parents and students additional education options.
  • Ensure that parents are aware of Arizona’s public school choice options by continuously promoting open enrollment and other programs.
  • Give individual parents or parents’ associations an active role in school assessment.

Parents should always play an active role in their children’s education. I will not tolerate threats against parents who want to speak their minds to local school boards or criticize elected officials.

  • Encourage open dialogue and guarantee parents the right to freely and safely exercise their right to engage local school boards and state officials on issues of concern without fear of outside surveillance or retribution.

Eliminate Antiquated Bureaucratic Structures and Barriers to Success

Parents’ ability to make the best choices for their children’s educational success are being hampered by antiquated regulatory guidelines, tax policies, and bureaucracy. As governor, I will not hesitate to upset the status quo, challenge the teachers unions, or question state bureaucrats in order to provide better educational opportunities for children in Arizona.

  • Ensure that bureaucrats do not shut down schools under false ‘public health’ pretenses – understanding that virtual-only learning has significantly hurt our students educational, social, and mental health needs – and bring more transparency to teachers unions’ lobbying efforts to keep schools closed so that the public is aware.
  • Bring a return-on-investment perspective to Arizona’s education and workforce training programs to produce a gain to taxpayers that is higher than their initial cost.
  • Expand results-based funding initiatives that prioritize children’s interests over those of teachers’ union bosses.
  • Reform school funding formulas developed in the 1980s to better match today’s environment and economy.
  • Guarantee that funding follows students instead of school districts, allowing parents to choose the educational programs that best suit their children’s individual needs.
  • Reform school district boundaries so that schools that are performing well can serve more students.

Free-up more resources for education.

  • Empower the Arizona State Land Department in its efforts to become an economic development-focused agency. Leveraging the responsible release of State Trust Lands will provide additional revenue to finance reforms and improvements in our educational system.

Support Our Teachers

Talented and dedicated teachers are the foundation of a robust education system – not teachers union bosses. Too many teaching vacancies in Arizona remain unfilled, and, as governor, I’ll work to ensure that we attract, train, and retain the most talented, most effective, and most dedicated educators for our children.

  • Guarantee the national competitiveness of Arizona teachers’ salaries and benefits.
  • Offer enhanced compensation, including merit pay and signing bonuses, to STEM teachers in key areas that will advance Arizona’s workforce expansion and economic growth goals.
  • Foster a stronger culture of leadership and entrepreneurship in our public schools. Bolster professional development programs for current and prospective school leaders and empower principals to have a greater voice in their schools’ futures.
  • Give teachers leeway and resources to develop and deploy innovative methods for meeting students’ academic needs. They know what works best – and what doesn’t.

Nurture the talent pool of current and prospective teachers in Arizona.

  • Continue to support the success of the Arizona Teachers Academy so that talented young people have the opportunity to enter and contribute to our state’s education system.
  • Broaden pathways into the teaching profession for U.S. military veterans, accomplished career changers, and experienced retirees.
  • Increase communication with schools about how to address burnout among teachers – which has become a ‘silent’ impediment to long-term retention issues – such as providing more flexibility related to their work hours and holidays throughout the year.
  • Embrace residency and mentorship programs for new teachers.
  • Strengthen existing licensing reciprocity agreements to encourage and welcome teachers from other states.

Conclusion

A first-rate public education system does more than simply transmit knowledge. It prioritizes student success, empowers parents to play an active role in their children’s education, and develops and rewards its most talented teachers.

Our schools not only educate our children but are also a key factor in Arizona’s continued growth. Well-educated professionals attract investment to the state and improve everyone’s economic condition and quality of life.

Education and the economy are directly linked, and states that fail to take these two challenges seriously face a death spiral wherein businesses, investors, innovators, and younger workers flee for greener pastures.

Arizona has a bright future, full of possibilities for our young people.

As your next governor, I’ll ensure our education system provides our children with the skills and abilities they need to grasp that future, while affording parents the information and input needed to help guide Arizona’s future generations.