Coaches of any major sports team often say after a big victory, “We are going to give ourselves 24 hours to celebrate, and then it’s time to forget it and focus on the next game.” And when you apply that to a political campaign, like the push to pass Proposition 123, where you spend months working hard to get it done, you might need a little more than 24 hours to relax and recharge.
But we in the education arena know that the problems in Arizona classrooms didn’t suddenly go away while we were clinking our champagne glasses. Sure, the 3.5 billion dollars from Prop 123 that is now headed to Arizona public schools over the next ten years will help in a major way. But with most schools already in session or set to start in the next few weeks, it’s time to focus on what’s next.
We at Stand for Children Arizona believe the single biggest issue holding our students back is the lack of reading proficiency. 60% of all Arizona 3rd graders can’t read. That’s a staggering number if you really think about it. And sadly, the percentage is much higher when you focus on most minority and underserved communities.
Currently, the state spends 40 million dollars to support children who are on track to be held back because they weren’t reading at 3rd grade level. The state law that requires them to be held back is called “Move On When Reading.” We, at Stand, believe this law, and the money that helps these students get caught up is vital. But with the latest data showing the extent of the reading problem in Arizona, we think the funding that supports these children needs to double. Stand for Children would like to see another 40 million added, specifically for the hiring of more reading specialists, better training for reading teachers, and to explore technologies that are dramatically helping both students and teachers progress more quickly. Regardless of how districts and charters choose to spend it, the money must target children in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade who need help the most.
Obviously, the details of this increase in funding still need to be hammered out. But without reading skills by 3rd grade, studies have shown, a child’s future is much more difficult. Their chances for a college education and financial success are much lower.
Arizona’s children deserve better outcomes. Stand for Children Arizona believes this plan is the best use of resources, in order to have the biggest and most immediate impact on student achievement. It’s time for our next victory. We hope you’ll join us in making it happen.
Stand for Children Arizona Exec. Dir.
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