- State Senate Candidate -

The future of Arizona depends on providing our children the highest-quality education so that they are prepared to succeed in life and our constantly changing economy. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that every child is prepared with the right problem-solving and technical skills so they can reach their full potential and help drive our state forward to a better future. Currently, Arizona is failing on both fronts.

The Quality Counts report by Education Week gave Arizona’s education system an overall grade of D+, putting the state in 46th place nationwide. “States are graded and ranked in three categories: Chance for Success (January), School Finance (June), and K-12 Achievement (September). A state’s overall grade, published in September, is the average of its scores on the three separate indices tracked for the report card.” Arizona ranks near the bottom on every indicator which affects a child’s ability to earn a quality education:

  • Arizona ranked 46th overall with a score of 69.1/100.
  • Arizona ranked 43rd in the “Chance for Success category,” which evaluates the impact of public education on future outcomes for students (this includes indicators such as early childhood access, graduation rates, post-secondary attendance, parental income, and other development indicators).
  • Arizona ranked 29th in the nation on “K-12 Achievement Index” (this measure combines math and reading test scores, AP achievement, and other performance measures).
  • Arizona ranked 47th in “School Finance” (the measure examines two critical aspects such as per-pupil spending, share of total taxable resources spent on education and funds distribution equity).

Education should be as an equalizer in our society, but years of funding cuts to our public schools, combined with drastic cuts in social services for our most vulnerable children, have undermined our state’s ability to provide every child with the chance to succeed in life. These national rankings reflect the vacuum of leadership we have seen from current elected officials.

It is time for change and a new direction.


Education is not limited to instructional time in the classroom — family involvement, engaged instructors armed with the right tools, and adequate funding are just a few of the elements necessary for a child to succeed in school. We need a new approach to Arizona education. This is why I am putting forth a policy proposal to support our future generations in achieving such goals. AZ Forward will transform education and promote economic opportunities for all Arizona students.

Data Insights

A survey conducted on three groups in the State of Arizona discovered insights about education. The same ten survey questions were asked of two groups of people:

Group 1: Everyone, regardless of political ideology, live in Arizona.

Group 2: Lean liberal, live in Arizona

Group 3: Lean conservative, live in Arizona 


Arizona population demographics (census.gov):


Population | Male — 50% | Female — 50%

Age | 18 to 25–9% | 26 to 35–14% | 36 to 45–12% | 46 to 55–11% | 55+ — 29%

Ethnicity | White/Non-Hispanic — 70% | Latino/Hispanic — 31% | Black/African American — 5% | Asian — 3.45% | American Indian — 1% | Other — 4%

Annual Income | Up to $25,000–18% | $25,000 to $50,000–21% | $50,000 to $100,000–30% | Above $100,000–31%

Survey Respondents

Respondent demographics:

Population | Male — 44% | Female — 54% | Non-Binary — 2%

Age | 18 to 25–2% | 26 to 35–21% | 36 to 45–6% | 46 to 55–13% | 55+ — 13%

Ethnicity | White/Non-Hispanic — 82% | Latino/Hispanic — 6% | Black/African American — 6% | Asian — 3% | American Indian — 2% | Other — 1%

Annual Income | Up to $25,000–17% | $25,000 to $50,000–22% | $50,000 to $100,000–41% | Above $100,000–15%

Respondent demographics provide a reasonable sample when compared to the Arizona population.

The following questions were ranked on a scale of 1–5:

1 = Strongly Disagree | 2 = Disagree | 3 = Neutral | 4 = Agree | 5 = Strongly Agree

Respondents from both surveys were closely related which indicates a common perspective on Arizona education. Mostly neutral is considered a middle point for responses which indicates half agree and half disagree.

Question Analysis

Please state your agreement with the below statements that best describe your experience with Arizona public schools:

Respondents Disagree that the school: Inculcates moral values (Mean = 2.95).

Respondents were Neutral: Your child is learning what he/she needs to know (Mean = 3.15), Your child finds school work interesting (Mean = 3.25), Your child finds school work challenging (Mean = 3.34), Your child finds school work stimulating (Mean = 3.12), Students help each other (Mean = 3.34), Students respect each other (Mean = 3.30), Etiquette's are taught to your child (Mean = 3.00), Your child is taught to be mindful of society at large (Mean = 3.27), Your child is motivated by the teachers (Mean = 3.46), Your child can easily access programs and services at school to get help with school work (Mean = 3.38), Your child can get help at school with problems that are not related to school work (Mean = 3.19), Your child receives academic counseling (Mean = 3.12),

Respondents Agree: Your child is given feedback by the teachers (Mean = 3.76), Your child is treated fairly and with respect by elders at the school (Mean = 3.59), Your child is safe to and on the way home from school (Mean = 3.76), and Your child can easily access the available technology in the school (Mean = 3.61)

Please state your agreement with the below statements that best describe your experience with Arizona public schools:

Respondents Disagree: Current State elected officials are doing enough to address education policy (Mean = 2.62).

Respondents Agree: Education policy is an issue in our State (Mean = 4.00), The State should provide skills based education instead of testing (Mean = 3.90), and You are willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund public schools (Mean = 3.67).

Please state your agreement with the below statements on gentrification:

Respondents Agree: It is currently occurring in the school district and adjoining area (Mean = 4.10), and Gentrification is over-hyped (Mean = 4.17).

Respondents Disagree: Gentrification is positive (Mean = 2.57), It benefits an area (Mean = 2.81), It makes the area the livable (Mean = 2.81), It makes the area desirable (Mean = 2.87), It is important for the safety of a student (Mean = 2.74), It makes the school district accessible to all students (Mean = 2.43), It offers more living options (Mean = 2.67), Added capacity increases affordability in the area (Mean = 2.91), It maintains economic diversity (Mean = 2.53), I have been affected by gentrification (Mean = 2.29), I have been rendered homeless by gentrification (Mean = 1.80), My area has turned into a middle to high-end locality (Mean = 2.29), and My living conditions have improved after gentrification in the area (Mean = 2.23).

The following questions were ranked on a scale of 1–5:

1 = Very Dissatisfied | 2 = Dissatisfied | 3 = Neutral | 4 = Satisfied | 5 = Very Satisfied

Question Analysis

How would rate your satisfaction with Arizona public schools based on these parameters:

Respondents were Dissatisfied: Quality of education (Mean = 2.81) and Teaching methods (Mean = 2.90).

Respondents were Neutral: Quality of teaching (Mean = 3.19), Subjects available (Mean = 3.15), Teaching aids (Mean = 3.10), Extracurricular activities (Mean = 3.15), Infrastructure (Mean = 3.04), Transport facilities (Mean = 3.42), Quality of cafeteria and dining area (Mean = 3.30), Field trips conducted (Mean = 3.03), and Campus safety (Mean = 3.47).

Respondents were Satisfied: Geographical location (Mean = 3.85) and Use of technology (Mean = 3.52).

What teaching methods used at the school do you find most effective (select all that apply)?

Respondents indicate: Class teaching (17.27%), Use of multimedia (12.75%), Coursework (16.25%), Homework (7.59%), Field trips (13.93%), Evaluations and examinations (5.69%), Individual projects (13.82%), Group projects (10.99%), Other (please explain) (1.71%).

Other: At home practice; My kid went to private school; Active learning; Hands on activities

What learning avenue’s does your child have access to, in the school (select all that apply)?

Respondents indicate: Music (14.01%), Arts (14.94%), Physical Education (16.54%), Sports (13.07%), Computers (14.70%), Another language (10.33%), Health (8.68%), Government (7.42%), Other (please explain) (0.31%).

Other: Reading, math

To offer respondents a chance to provide additional comments, one open ended question was asked:

Do you have any other thoughts, comments, or insights you want to provide related to education or State education policy?

The answers offered provide additional insights into the thoughts of Arizona residents in relation to education policy. The responses are edited for minor grammatical errors and word clarity.

Group 1 — All

Gentrification. As wealthier people move into a previously poor neighborhood, the median area income increases. This increases cash flows for local businesses and makes local business investment more desirable. Over a period of time, more businesses are built, new jobs are created, and wages increase.
The education system doesn’t teach kids how the government/private foreign multi-national corporation co-mingled power structure works. If kids don’t know what a central bank really is about and just know propaganda, the entire country can be taken over. The public education system also isn’t teaching young kids about how collectivism takes over society to take over government. Our country is in a pivot point, where those in power are very close to completely taking over all aspects of our lives. If public education can’t identify and counter this, what the hell is the point?
They keep wanting to raise taxes, but it seems to just go in their pockets. teachers aren’t paid well & the schools need building & facility upgrades.
They need to fund the schools better, because as of right now they are understaffed, and overwhelmed. They are not able to effectively do their jobs, and no one is doing anything about it.
spend more money on our kids and teachers for they are the future and too many d level schools are out there. special needs kids are not being educated or enough money spent on them at all.
Good education.
AZ is 5th from the bottom in education. IT’s sad they need to get their policies in order and pay teachers what they are worth.

Group 2 — Lean Liberal

It needs more funding to pay teachers more and provide a better classroom environment. I am willing to pay more to help with this.
Arizona does not provide an equal education for all students in all areas. Too much money is wasted at the top. The arts are not given enough attention.
The teachers do a great job with what they have. However, the schools are understaffed and the teachers are underpaid. Some of the curriculum forced upon the teachers to instruct seems largely ineffective.
More focus needs to be paid to actual learning. Politics and religion needs to be kept out of schools. Too much of the school budget goes to administration versus teachers and learning.
I believe it should be a better curriculum and not just the normal general subjects. Students should be given classes dealing with real life situations mainly things they will have to deal with everyday. Curriculum's she be more hands on activities as oppose to just staying in the class and reading all day. Just anyone with a degree should not be able to teach. It has to be proven you really like kids and want to teach them appropriate things.
I think that the quality of education is decreasing every year and there is too many kids in public school classes which affects the children’s ability to learn. Also, there should be a lot more physical education and more than just playing “tag” for 5 minutes.
I encourage my kids to take full advantage of learning opportunities.
I think that just throwing money at the schools is not the whole issue. Teacher need to be able to stop worrying about testing and meeting standards in order to be free to teach in a more creative and engaging way.
I just feel with having 3 children in school that they need to have safer campuses, non bullying rules in place and better teaching as in one on one if needed. When your child is clueless about how to do homework you know there is an issue and the bullying is out of control. We need more teachers and smaller classrooms.

Group 3 — Lean Conservative 

Public education is rotten at the core. The grade school down the street that I went to as a kid has just constructed a gigantic multi-million dollar auditorium and parking garage for public performances in competition with similar venues around the City. Grade School! And then they come to the voters asking for school bond overrides. Sickening.
It just really needs to be improved so many things are wrong one being in this state it pushes to much of the academic’s and not enough of social skills that a child needs. Example, will I know this has changed, why did a law need to be passed so that grade school kids would get recess who thought not allowing children to play and make them sit all day along I find baffling.
I believe that teachers are paid enough. They work nine months out of the year and have every holiday and weekend off. I have an issue that they went on strike and feel that it was totally wrong. I appreciate that they are teaching our youth, however they need to look at the entire picture. In addition, I feel that as parents we need to be more involved. Setting your child in front of a movie is not helping them learn. Parents need to take accountability.
Arizona is 49th in rank in the nation for teacher pay. We need to start offering a better wage to get and keep good educators. That should be the starting point, more supplies provided by the state, physical education, art, music, history and civics should me brought to the forefront to our schools again.
I think Arizona does a great job with our schooling system and provides a lot of opportunities for kids.
Schools need to teach for subjects (math, language arts, science & history) with some electives. Students should not be exposed to deviant and immortal lifestyles as part of their lessons. Teachers need to keep their politics out of the classroom. If they want to protest, they need to do it on their own time and keep students out of it. They were hired to do a job, not abandon it to go protest. Students also need to be taught life skills and how to work, not how to buck authority and expect others to work to pay their way. Young people need to learn a trade to work, not go to school for useless degrees that warp their sense of how life works. Bring back shop and home economics.
Teachers are not doing enough and if they want higher pay and more benefits, need to do more than just act as glorified babysitters.
The taxes never solve the problem. It’s genetics.
Too many Mexicans.
Overall we do a great job.
I think the teachers need to be paid more, and the administration needs to be paid less.


Policy Plan

AZ Forward

AZ Forward is a K-12 proposal to move Arizona residents towards 90 percent having achieved a college degree or professional certification (in addition to our high school graduation rate of 90 percent) by 2030. AZ Forward is proposed to ensure they can access more career opportunities in their communities across the state. AZ Forward supports providing students with relevant education and training to jump-start their post-secondary degrees and credentials. Future leaders, with their certificate, degree or credential, can transition into the workforce and contribute to the success of our economy. Students also need to obtain a healthy, balanced diet to stay focused. This means two meals a day per student guaranteed in all public schools K-12.

How will AZ Forward work?

By providing all students with the knowledge and skills for transition to post-secondary education and/or high-quality careers. AZ Forward is structured around three key elements:

I. Quality post-secondary and employment counseling throughout K-12;

II. STEM education, demanding early post-secondary and apprentice opportunities in high school; and

III. Forward moving outcomes for future leaders between K-12, post-secondary institutions, and employment opportunities as a result of partnerships among school districts, higher education institutions, employers, and community organizations.

As your next State Senator, I will take a new approach to help our students achieve their absolute best with a comprehensive six-point policy plan:

  1. Fighting for the funding our education system needs to support our future generation
  2. Access to Pre-K (Arizona Head Start) and summer education for every Arizona family
  3. Provide students the 21st Century Skills and enhance career path education programs & prepare every student for success in either college or in a career
  4. Pay our educators and support staff competitive salaries
  5. Make certain every student in public school has an equal opportunity to learn and get ahead
  6. Make certain Arizona’s Native American populations are well served by the education system

1. Fighting for the funding our education system needs to support our future generation

We must invest more in education to give our families and communities the schools they deserve and give our kids the skills they need to succeed. According to Census.gov, the national average during 2017 for per-pupil spending reached $12,201. In Arizona, it is over 33 percent (-$4,148) below the national average ($8,003). Funding has not kept pace with inflation or population growth. To give our kids the education system they deserve, we need to increase classroom investment while we expand statewide pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) [also known as Arizona Head Start] education into our public education system. Pre-K is the best investment we can make for our future generation. Every study shows that Pre-K gives kids a head starts in life and leads to better jobs and better incomes.

Our funding shortfall has become so severe that several school districts around the state have joined with families to sue the state for failing in its constitutional duty to provide education to the state’s children by not committing the necessary resources to public education. We have seen Red For Ed protests from our educators to fight for more school funding with only a little success. Arizona’s children are facing a huge achievement gap, lagging their peers around the country in reading and math. I agree with the school districts and families that these achievement gaps lead to opportunity gaps for our kids, denying them the skills and training they need to succeed.

We need to reverse this, and as your State Senator, I commit to identifying and developing strategies to increase investments in our students and schools while we expand our programs to reach our youngest children. We need responsible school funding to make sure every student has a chance at a good education from Pre-K through high school. To achieve this, along with growing our economy, we must increase and diversify our revenue to education, ensure we are making the most of every education dollar and provide a permanent and reliable funding source for Pre-K.

To achieve this, we will:

Diversity and expand state revenues. To build a strong future for our schools, we need a diverse set of revenue streams built on a base of enhanced economic opportunity and prosperity. Elected officials have repeatedly cut corporate taxes and protected loopholes even with a strong economy, but revenue for our schools still suffer. I pledge to work with legislators to develop plans to generate new revenue for our schools, including marijuana legalization to support dollars in the classroom.

The national average during 2017 for per-pupil spending reached $12,201. In Arizona, it remained over 33 percent (-$4,148) below the national average at $8,003. Under the current law, the business of selling tangible personal property at wholesale, by definition, is not taxable.

A.R.S. § 42‐5061 (V) (3): (Deduction Code 503) The business of selling tangible personal property at wholesale, by definition, is not taxable. During fiscal year 2017/18, wholesale trade was estimated to be $107 billion.

Another measure of this type of activity is the deduction for sales for resale. In fiscal year 2017/18 it is estimated that businesses deducted $71.7 billion for sales for resale. At 5 percent, these transactions would have generated $3.6 billion.

Each and every resident pays their fair share of taxes in this state and making sure activities that generated $171.7 billion in fiscal year 2017/2018 paid a 1 percent tax rate would generate $1.71 billion to pay for our future generations success (keep in mind the sales tax is currently 5.6 percent, if they were taxed at that rate, the revenue generated would be over $9 billion).

This is not a tax increase since that would imply you are paying a tax already. The revenue generated would be exclusively dedicated to our education system and support a vibrant future for our children.

Increase the tax deduction for individuals and married couples. The Public-School Tax Credit needs to be adjusted. “An individual may claim a nonrefundable tax credit for making contributions or paying fees directly to a public school in this state for support of eligible activities, programs or purposes as defined by statute. The maximum credit currently allowed is $400 for married filing joint filers and $200 for single, heads of household and married filing separate filers.” I pledge to work with legislators to increase the tax deduction to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for married couples.

2. Access to Pre-K (Arizona Head Start) and summer education for every Arizona family

We know that high-quality Pre-K education for three- and four-year-old children makes a measurable difference in cognitive and social development and long-term educational outcomes. By getting to kids during the most crucial stages of brain development, we give kids the tools they need to succeed through high school, college, and beyond. Kids in Pre-K will have more economic opportunities and higher incomes. With these outcomes in place, we will reduce costs to our criminal justice, welfare, and health care systems.

“The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 TO 40 PERCENT LARGER among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. During the summer months, disadvantaged children tread water at best or even fall behind. It’s what we call “SUMMER SLIDE” while better-off children build their skills steadily over the summer months. SUMMER LEARNING LOSS accounts for about two-thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap in reading.”

Early childhood education provides a cost-benefit ranging from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested with an annual return over 7 percent. The most important benefit from making early childhood education investments is clear: Arizona’s Pre-K graduates receive high scores in language, literacy and mathematics.

But Pre-K enrollment in all programs is currently less than 10 percent for low-income students and less than 5 percent statewide. There is no reason we should not be working to enroll every single Arizona child in early childhood education. The best programs across the country have achieved 80–85 percent overall enrollment. We push to meet and exceed these benchmarks while ensuring every eligible Arizona child can access education. With more funding in place we will:

Increase the number of qualified Pre-K educators and programs. We will need to create nearly 100,000 new state Pre-K slots. However, we currently have too few teachers and facilities for the system to serve these families. By integrating Pre-K into the public-school funding formula, we can pay our early childhood educators a professional wage, attract more educators to the profession, and ensure they have the education and experience to help children grow and prepare for kindergarten. This is critical to increasing the number of high-quality Pre-K educators. We must also make sure that teacher-training programs at Arizona Universities and other institutes are equipped to train teachers at all levels of education, from Pre-K to 12 while investing non-recurring funds in building more classrooms and infrastructure.

Provide development opportunities to create a skilled, professional workforce. Many of the communities most in need of Pre-K programs lack the skilled professional workforce to staff and administer them. We need to provide our workforce the opportunities and professional development they need as we bring more educators into the system. To cultivate a more robust and widely distributed workforce, the state must invest in both pre-service and in-service professional development in direct proportion to program expansions. We must expand existing apprenticeship and assistant-ship models while strengthening master-teacher programs. As your State Senator, I will commit to establishing, funding, and promoting incentives to recruit and retain qualified educators in disadvantaged communities.

Make full-day Pre-K programs the universal standard. Full-day programs are proven to have greater benefits for school readiness, better attendance, enhanced social and emotional development, and better physical health. Too many students are left under-served in half-day programs that do not provide parents the support they need or teachers the time necessary to have a real impact. Our expansion of Pre-K will provide full-day education for every family that wants it.

In building out capacity, we must focus first on the communities currently most under-served by Arizona Pre-K programs, and most in need of improved education.

3. Provide students the 21st Century Skills and enhance career path education programs & prepare every student for success in either college or in a career

Our children will require different knowledge and skills than we did, and we are doing them a disservice by focusing so much on preparing students simply to take standardized tests. Higher test scores may help schools achieve higher grades, but it does not help our children prepare for the workplace. Today’s complex economy requires us to prepare students with a stronger foundation in math and science, and the ability to combine different subject matters to practically solve problems. The global economy requires a new approach to what we are teaching and how we teach it:

Implement rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) standards aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. Developed by the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council, and an educational consortium representing 26 states, these college- and career-ready standards were designed to help students learn core scientific concepts; how to develop and test ideas; and how to evaluate evidence. The standards are designed to help students achieve a core competency in science and engineering fields and are the best approach to helping prepare Arizona students. From auto repair to social science research to computer coding, STEM is becoming an essential component in every field. We need to make sure our students have the knowledge base to compete.

To achieve this, we will:

Make STEAM the core platform for Arizona’s schools. The modern economy demands a greater competency in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), but simply increasing our educational focus on these subjects will not prepare students for our changing economy. Research has shown that “The Arts” — liberal, design, visual and language arts — are an essential component in developing skills in creativity and critical thinking. By preserving education in the arts and infusing the arts into how we teach STEM, we can teach our children essential skills like critical thinking, communications, collaboration, and problem solving.

Align the curriculum between elementary, middle, high school, and post-secondary levels to help create a coherent K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) system. Schools must be consistent in their teaching approach and learning standards to ensure that students’ real-life skills and abilities keep pace with their expanding body of knowledge.

Encourage innovation in the teacher preparation programs at Arizona’s colleges and universities. For example, we can develop more dual-degree programs in Education and Math and Science fields to increase the number of graduates qualified to teach in the STEM subjects and provide more professional development opportunities for teachers looking to develop their skills in subjects such as dual- language education.

Provide educators with the tools and training they need to teach. New rigorous standards will require more strategic investments. For example, new STEM fields will require additional scientific instruments and equipment in the classroom; and for teachers of quickly developing subject fields like computer science must have access to professional training to stay abreast of essential new developments.

Promote the use of technology to expand the scope of learning opportunities, especially in rural and under-served schools. As your State Senator, I will work to expand rural access to high-speed broadband. This technology is particularly important for rural and under-served schools with limited funds. Broadband Internet can connect students to institutions and programs such as larger library collections or online coursework for more specialized fields. The Internet also provides schools with the ability to link up with distance learners via teleconferencing.

Expand Arizona’s career and technical education programs and apprenticeships. Not every career requires a bachelor’s degree, but most jobs require industry-specific training or certification. As your State Senator, I will advocate for stronger vocational education programs that include opportunities for high school students to earn certificates and associate degrees in partnership with our community colleges of Arizona. I will put a greater emphasis on experiential learning through internships and apprenticeship programs. Every program that we can expand to students statewide is an opportunity for students to earn the technical skills and certifications necessary to find a well-paying job. Countries around the world have recognized the importance of strong apprenticeship programs. On average, employers get $1.46 back for every $1 invested in apprenticeships. In Arizona, such programs may be part of our public schools or run in coordination with our community colleges and public-private partnerships that provide opportunities for students to learn a trade.

Teach entrepreneurship and financial management in Arizona’s schools. Courses in entrepreneurship and financial management do not just teach students how to pursue economic opportunities or balance a checkbook. It also nurtures creativity, resilience, persistence, risk-taking, and the critical-thinking skills that are so necessary to compete in today’s global economy.

Unmanageable financial burden is only one reason students do not succeed. Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Our diverse student population needs diverse options for pursuing post-secondary education goals. When students are unprepared academically or emotionally, unable to travel or relocate, or cannot find a program that fits their interests or needs, they are less likely to be successful. If we are committed to increasing student success, we must be committed to addressing all of our students’ needs. One way to make our education system as diverse as our students is to expand the options students are able to consider, and then to ensure that they are prepared to succeed.

To achieve this, we will:

Ensure that our students are prepared for post-secondary education. Nationally, 17 percent of new college and university students require remedial courses in math and English before they can begin college-level courses. Less than half of high school graduates in Arizona meet the requirements for acceptance to Arizona State University. With so many of our college-bound high school graduates falling short in core disciplines, there is clearly a disconnect between what is being taught in high schools and what is needed for post-secondary education. It has unfair to students and their families to be told upon graduating high school that they have learned what they need for college, only to find on the first day of college that they are already behind.

I will convene a task force to align high school curricula with post-secondary requirements. This effort will include the Arizona Department of Education, as well representatives from high schools, colleges, and universities, including students. This effort is part of my broader plan to improve education — K-12, K-20, K-for life– for all Arizonans.

Support the creation and development of advising and mentoring programs that work to help students successfully transition from high school to post- secondary education. Help with decision making, support, and experienced role models can all ensure that the transition from high school to post-secondary school is more successful.

For example:

  • Early college programs help students think about career options that align with their interests and talents and identify local colleges and universities that could be a good fit.
  • Near peer mentoring programs pair slightly older students who have successfully navigated the college admissions process with those still in high school. These programs give high school students more access to support than they can get from traditional school guidance counselors and can build empathetic and supportive relationships that help the younger student make their way successfully.
  • Summer “nudging programs” that provide regular reminders over the summer to help students keep track of tasks related to applying and entering college. These personalized texts and emails gently remind students about upcoming deadlines for everything from financial aid forms to upcoming placement exams and help keep kids on track for college.

Furthermore, I will support the creation and development of advising and mentoring programs that work to help students successfully transition from high school to post- secondary education. Not every student will go to college and we need to prepare for those who do not to be successful in their careers. This means strong career and technical education programs. Once our students are prepared, we need to make sure that the career paths and educational opportunities they need are available to them. There can be stigma associated with going into the trades and vocational programs instead of chasing a more prestigious degree, but this is a myth that is harmful to our state and harmful to our students, and we need to work to overcome it.

Today’s Career and Technical Education programs (CTE) can include traditional vocational studies such as auto body and carpentry and have grown into so much more. Courses of study may include:

Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; Arts, Audio/Video Technology and Communications; Business, Management, and Administration, Education and Training, Finance, Government and Public Administration; Health Sciences; Hospitality and Tourism; Human Services; Information Technology; Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security; Manufacturing; Marketing, Sales, and Service; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; Transportation, Distribution and Logistics. Effective.

CTE programs teach skills that can be used to launch a profession right out of high school, but that are also flexible enough to transfer between fields and can be built on through continuing education throughout one’s career. Such programs often partner with businesses to provide students with internships and authentic work opportunities and connect the technical fields with academic subjects such as English, history, science and math.

Let us be clear: this is not your parents’ shop class. In robust CTE programs, woodworking classes teach students to read blueprints, make detailed drawings, and use the machinery found in today’s woodworking industry. Automotive CTE pathways prepare students to work with the computerized equipment, electronics and advanced materials that are now standard, and innovative technology such as fuel cells or electric car design.

We know post-secondary education is not one-size-fits-all. Although 78 percent of our high school students graduate (the national average is about 85 percent), only 26.9 percent of those in public four-year school’s and 8.3 percent of those in our public two-year school’s graduate. “On average, high school graduates earn $8,000 more annually compared to those who don’t finish high school.” And the high-school graduates without college degrees who are doing the best? They are the ones with the skills and training to land jobs not traditionally associated with advanced degrees — jobs in fields such as manufacturing, construction, mining, and agriculture, the same good-paying jobs our communities need filled if they are going to thrive and grow.

As your State Senator, I am going to work with the Arizona Department of Education to identify, reinvest, and develop robust CTE programs across the state.

Along with our students’ need for diverse educational programs, they need more options when it comes to obtaining their education. We need to recognize that we are a large but sparsely populated state, and that despite the large number of post- secondary educational institutions out there, there will always be students who do not live near, nor are able or want to relocate to, schools that offer the programs they are interested in. That does not mean post-secondary education should be out of reach. On-line learning is a growing field that can be especially valuable to low- income and first-generation students who are more likely to fall behind in large, impersonal classrooms. To support remote learning, we need the broadband infrastructure that can deliver digital educational programming to every corner of the state.

As your State Senator, I will prioritize making high-speed broadband access available at affordable prices to all Arizonans, no matter where they live.

Expanding Degree Opportunities In Community Colleges

Community colleges are an integral part of our state and offer students smaller class sizes with less debt burdens than larger institutions. We have the best community colleges in the country and should offer Bachelor’s degree opportunities in addition to Associate & certification options. We have a shortage of nurses and information technology professionals and need to increase programs focused on these areas. The impact will generate significant benefits for our growing population with a lower cost, high quality education and ensure a more personalized level of attention to support our future generations success.

As your State Senator, I will put forth legislation to open up Bachelor’s degree programs in Arizona’s community colleges. 

4. Pay our educators and support staff competitive salaries

Educators make the largest contribution to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling. High-quality educators, including capable principals, administrators, and support staff, are at the center of student learning; they are passionate about serving our youth, and make a tremendous difference in their lives. And like many other states around the country, Arizona is facing a severe educator shortage.

The current policies have led to Arizona having the highest educator attrition rate in the nation. This has led to many vacancies across the state and many long-term substitutes and alternative certification (alt cert) teachers in our classrooms. In addition to teaching full time, alt certs must also take part time classes to get certified. Many of these new teachers have had no training (Arizona has over 13,000 inexperienced educators) in lesson planning, individualized education plans (IEP’s), or classroom management. In addition, they must pay for their certifications, and many reports that the cost and time investment is prohibitive.

The biggest obstacles to teacher recruitment are pay and the perception of the profession: People often no longer see teaching as a professional career and many no longer believe they can earn a living as a teacher. We cannot expect to recruit and retain the highest quality educators, principals and support staff that we need unless we treat them as the valued and respected professionals by paying them more and providing the opportunities for career growth, training, development and advancement that they deserve.

As your State Senator, I will:

Raise salaries. The best way to keep the teachers we have and recruit more to the profession is to pay them more. People do not pursue teaching careers for the money, but they deserve to be paid a respectable wage. Low pay erodes their standard of living, hurts morale, and drives people to seek other work. In Arizona, the average salary for a teacher in 2019 is $46,313. The Red For Ed movement fought hard for an increase in 2018. That is an improvement, but it is not good enough.

“Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Adjusted for local cost of living, federal figures show elementary teachers actually rank 49th in earnings and high school teachers 48th.”

We need to increase average teacher pay to $75,000 by 2025. This will ensure we attract the best of the best in this vital field to train our future generations. We need to make sure their pay remains competitive, and that teaching can provide an attractive, secure career. Furthermore, we need to ensure that everyone involved in making our schools work is paid a decent wage. Today Teacher Aide earns an average salary of $22,489 (132 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of 2). School bus drivers, guidance counselors, librarians, coaches and other classified personnel are also dramatically underpaid. We need to make sure that everyone working in our schools is paid a fair and respectful wage. I will work with the legislature and schools to determine a path forward to further increase the pay for teachers and classified personnel, and make sure that cost of living adjustments commitments is fulfilled.

Make teaching in Arizona a more attractive option for young professionals. I will support high-performing students with a scholarship which provides full tuition and a rigorous curriculum for future teachers in core subjects. I will promote and work to expand loan forgiveness programs for young teachers to support them in their early lower-income years. I will advocate for legislation to create a financial assistance program to provide grants to qualified teachers who are hired by and fulfill a commitment to work in an eligible school district where they are most needed.

Improve our teacher preparation programs. We will invest in our professors, partner with education foundations, and increase teacher graduation standards.

Institute mentoring and coaching programs to support early-career teachers and administrators. Provide high-quality professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators. Develop comprehensive programs for struggling schools improve teacher performance and student achievement.

Train more Arizonans to be teachers here at home. As we invest more in teacher salaries, we want these teaching opportunities to go to well-trained Arizonans. I will pursue and promote programs designed to grow our own teachers and partner with the state universities to improve teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention, and work with schools to improve the pathway for educators and other school staff to advance to the next level of teaching.

As your State Senator, throughout my tenure, I will ask and listen to Education professionals about what they need. The federal law passed in December 2015, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires collaboration with stakeholders and I will honor this commitment to involve educators as we work to address these issues.

5. Make certain every student in public school has an equal opportunity to learn and get ahead

Arizona’s strength is in its diversity, but to enjoy the benefits of that diversity, we must ensure that every student has the opportunity to get the best education possible. Currently, we are failing to meet that obligation — in fact, we are even being sued for failing to meet this obligation. Today, children with disabilities, low-income students, Native Americans, and English Language Learners all face challenges to achieving a quality education in our schools. As your State Senator, I will work to ensure that all of Arizona’s students have an equal opportunity at a high-quality education. This begins by fully funding education in every school district and reversing the draconian funding cuts made in our classrooms over the last ten years.

To achieve this goal, we will:

Train more teachers in English-Language Learners (ELL) education to expand opportunity for kids across our state. Given the cultural significance and educational importance of dual language education, we must do better.

Support meaningful opportunities in every school district for students with disabilities or learning disabilities. Arizona needs to work across the board to increase opportunities for and improve the lives of Arizonans with physical, developmental, or learning disabilities. This should include increased access to 1:1 aide who have a background in special education and more opportunities for team teaching. We must also reform of our testing and evaluation system to include a focus on treating special education students and teachers with the respect and resources they deserve rather than discouraging or devaluing them. Our special education needs to be empowering, not demeaning. In small districts where building a full special education infrastructure is more difficult, we will use technologies to better provide for students in need. For example, web-based tools can help children organize their thoughts, stay on-task and capture everything spoken in class.

Support our most vulnerable populations by targeting their schools for improvement. As highlighted, the current teacher and school evaluations punish educators and schools that serve disadvantaged students. We need to prioritize, not punish, these schools and educators. We will develop plans that offer incentives to leading educators so they can take on these challenges, and make sure these schools are engaged with their communities, empowering disadvantaged families to become full participants in their kids’ success.

6. Make certain Arizona’s Native American populations are well served by the education system

Elected officials have failed to effectively serve Arizona’s over 42,000 Native Americans enrolled in public schools. As your State Senator, I will ensure that we respect and uphold A.R.S. § 15–244 Office of Indian Education (OIE) by pursuing specific improvement plans for Native American populations and fully participating in government-to-government consultation. Furthermore, I will support Tribal Sovereignty and ensure these communities are well served by recruiting and training more educators and growing Culturally Relevant Indigenous Education efforts statewide.

Arizona does not do enough to support the more than 42,000 Native Americans in the state’s public-school system. Proficiency levels in reading, math, and science are lower than those for any other group. And graduation and attendance rates and college completion rates remain lower than those for all students.

As your State Senator, I will change this and be an active participant in government-to- government consultation. I will re-engage our tribes across the state to ensure they have a voice in their kids’ education.

These relationships must be active and effective and include superintendents, tribal leaders, educators, and other stakeholders within the community. This will enable us to support Indigenous Language programs, curriculum development initiatives, and key support services that students need.

To achieve this goal, we will:

Support Tribal Sovereignty in education. Arizona tribes are currently not provided the resources or support needed to build the educational capacity they deserve as sovereign nations to reach goals and milestones necessary to fuel Indigenous Education models of Excellence and Relevance. Arizona is home to 22 Native American tribes and nations, with the third-largest native population in the United States. The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) allows tribes flexibility to seek waivers to develop and pilot Indigenous Language assessments. In Hawaii, students participating in a pilot language program created alternative assessments in their language and had opportunities to innovate. Arizona should provide Tribal governments and schools the support they need should they decide to seek these waivers. Arizona can play a role in building relevant community school models for Native American communities. And tribes who seek to run their own grant schools should have the technical support and resources necessary to run successful autonomous operations.

  • The Arizona Department of Education Office of Indian Education (OIE) should work with tribes and schools serving Indigenous communities to target federal and nonprofit grants available for building stronger and more innovative education systems serving these populations, and we must support the funding necessary to grow and sustain the Indian Education Act Fund, allowing OIE to do its job.
  • Finally, we must ensure that federal Title VIII Impact Aid funds, intended for the support of Indian Education, are in fact used to support these students. As we bring in more funds for public education overall, we will direct a greater share of these payments to the schools and districts for which they are intended.

Recruit and train and support educators to serve tribal communities and students. There are several steps we must take to ensure that we train and retain teachers who are prepared to teach Indigenous languages, culturally relevant curricula, and STEAM fields so students are supported culturally and prepared for college, careers, and leadership.

Promote an effort to grow educators for Native American communities. This will happen through programs focused on indigenous focused education programs, working with our higher education partners, and building tribal teacher preparation efforts, which give young people in-school experience before they seek teaching credentials.

Support tribes’ ability to certify teachers and provide credentials in languages or other specialized subjects.

Ensure access to STEAM-certified teachers and expand computer science curricula to all schools and increase access for Native American students.

AZ Forward: A Six Point Education Policy Plan

This AZ Forward 6-point policy plan is comprehensive and ambitious. It will take the combined efforts of educators, parents, students and civic leaders to make positive change happen. As your State Senator, I will include educator, student, parent and community voices when making decisions affecting Arizona schools. It will be challenging, and it will take time, but I believe it can be done because I believe in the people of Arizona and working across party lines to achieve a common goal of supporting our children. Our schools are the cornerstone of our communities. They are the foundation of our economy. If we prepare our children for the future, they will realize their dreams, participate fully in their communities as active, responsible citizens and help us all realize the dream of an economically vibrant Arizona. I am ready to get to work as your next State Senator make it happen in 2020.

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Contact Ryan

Reach Me Anytime
+1(480) 420-3391

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