As voters go to the polls today, it would behoove them to do so with a complete understanding of each candidate's stand on one of the greatest problems facing our state -- ensuring an excellent education for our children.
In the United States, Arizona ranks second to last in education spending per student. Only Utah spends less per student than Arizona.
To improve public education, Arizona must overcome several challenges.
All federal and state mandates should be fully funded, including the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act and No Child Left Behind.
Until now, they haven't been fully funded and our children suffer.
Among the problems our newly elected officials have to solve are attracting and retaining quality teachers, decreasing class sizes, providing full-day kindergarten, and adjusting funds to give rural schools the same educational amenities as metropolitan schools.
Retaining quality teachers is a huge key to improving public education. Sadly, there is an ongoing trend of teachers leaving the profession. Some flee because of low pay. But, there are just as many other good teachers who leave when they realize their authority to deal with disruptive students is not sufficient.
If our legislators can find ways to improve working conditions, strengthen teachers' authority, and fund greater compensation, teachers would flock to the profession rather than leaving.
Elected officials also must recognize that class sizes are growing at an alarming rate. Our state's students-to-teacher ratio is now the second worst in the nation. Legislators should strive to ensure that school districts receive the funding needed to reduce class size and hire more teachers for alternative programs.
Educational research proves that full-day kindergarten has a lasting positive effect on student achievement. It is critical to the success of students that they be provided with quality kindergarten and pre-school program.
Strong candidates for public office know that rural school districts, like Payson, face financial challenges that schools in Maricopa and Pima counties do not. Good legislators will work to help small schools meet those challenges without sacrificing teacher and employee compensation.
The outcome of the election in our district and around the state is vital to the well-being of our children.
This election is the best hope for change. Voters must go to the polls today and choose the candidates who will work to build outstanding public schools. That way, we will have met our challenge of providing our children with schools where they can grow and flourish.