As Arizona mayors, we work to find solutions to the issues facing our cities and towns. We roll up our sleeves to get the job done.
One of our most important jobs is to make sure Arizona children have the best schools in which to learn and grow. While we’re not in the business of running schools, we are in the business of attracting economic development. What happens in the classroom directly impacts our cities and towns. If we want to attract high-wage, quality jobs, we have to offer employers a well-educated workforce.
That’s why, as mayors, we are working hard to make sure we align the services that cities provide with our education goals. That means having our after-school, summer reading, early childhood, and literacy activities support what goes on in Arizona classrooms. That’s also why we are listening to our communities and starting the conversation to increase funding to improve Arizona schools.
For months, we’ve listened to education and business leaders and talked with Arizona legislators and citizens. While everyone has an opinion, we can all agree that improving Arizona’s economy means improving Arizona’s schools.
First, money matters, but how the money is spent matters most. Any new funding must target areas with the biggest needs that will have the greatest impact on student success. We need a greater focus on classroom-level funding in critical areas like reading proficiency, graduation rates and student instruction, with programs that have a track record of success.
Second, we need to ensure accountability and transparency for new funding. School districts must be able to show a connection between increased spending and student outcomes, and the state must develop clear and transparent ways to measure the impact of new funding in order to win public support.
Third, we must adequately fund Arizona’s K-12 system, by defining what makes a quality school and investing in those standards. Simply moving toward a national average of states on per-student funding misses the mark.
Fourth, improving school funding should focus on equity of outcomes. To achieve success for all students, funding has to be targeted to meet students’ individual needs.
Finally, school funding must be stable. The constant ups and downs of school funding are destructive to the education system and work against any long-term improvements. New funding should be based on effectiveness, transparency, accountability and stability.
As mayors, we know that finding funds in this economy can be a real challenge. But we also know that a great Arizona economy is tied to schools with high literacy and graduation rates, with students who are ready for success in the workforce, in college and beyond. While we need more funds to achieve these goals, funding must be targeted and programs must be accountable to make the improvements we agree are needed.
There is no denying that education is key to competing in a global economy. By taking a long-term view, investing in effectiveness and accountability our state will get there, one student at a time.
• Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix; Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, Avondale; Mayor Scott Smith, Mesa; Mayor John Lewis, Gilbert; Mayor Georgia Lord, Goodyear; Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Tucson; and Mayor Mark Mitchell, Tempe, all contributed to this guest commentary.