State Must Better Tend To Students

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There once was a farmer who planted seeds each year in hopes of a bountiful harvest. He would stand at the edge of the field and watch the sprouts break the surface and reach for the sun. But sadly, year after year, many of the young seedlings would wither and disappear sometimes nearly a fifth of the crop just stopped growing. This continued for 10 years. The farmer often wondered why his neighbor's seeds did so much better.

Once again, Arizona has the worst high school dropout rate in the nation. According to a report by the national Kids Count organization, which measures the welfare of children throughout the United Sates, 17 percent of Arizona's students fail to stay in school through graduation. This is double the national average. Why?

It would be easy to blame the seeds, deciding that our state has so many challenged children due to poverty, high minority enrollment, teen pregnancy, divorce or single parent homes. But we know in our hearts that all seeds are good and, if tended properly, can grow to maturity with the strength to face the seasons ahead.

The truth is, we must become better farmers.

No matter how you slice it, Arizona needs to provide more fertile soil by making education funding a top priority and it cannot wait until tomorrow. We can make excuses for the state's dropout rate, but we cannot ignore the fact that Arizona also is at the bottom of the list when it comes to investing money in education. Arizona schools must have the resources to attract and retain the best teachers, provide quality teaching materials and give our young people the skills they need for the future. Tell our legislators it's time for all of us to be more responsible with Arizona's most precious resource our children.

Richard Haddad, publisher

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