We believe there are three main issues we must address in Arizona: Our reading crisis, high school graduation rates, and the teacher shortage.
While at first glance these issues may seem disconnected, they are intertwined within the education ecosystem. They both impact, and are impacted by, the assets each student brings when they enter Kindergarten. This means that what they experience and learn prior to Kindergarten determines whether they will have a strong start, and is a predictor of their trajectory through college or career training.
A simple way of thinking about this is through the lens of P-20 education. That is—preschool through college. This is where the conversation about funding early childhood education becomes so important to the broader landscape.
Research tells us that a child’s brain develops more rapidly from birth to five years old than at any other time in life. In fact, their vocabulary at age three is a predictor for their third-grade reading comprehension. Even worse, a child who cannot read by the start of the 4th grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school and will likely remain behind his or her peers in subsequent school years.
This domino effect is exacerbated by poverty and other socio-economic factors in a child’s life. But there is something we can actually do about it.
That’s why we stood with Rep. Lorenzo Sierra in support of HB2806, a bill which will bolster funding for preschool. Recently, Arizona lost a $20 million preschool development block grant from the federal government and it set us back tremendously. HB2806 would replace the lost federal funding and turn that disappointment into hope. With state funding, rather than federal funding, we can take our destiny into our own hands.
It’s also why we worked with Senator Boyer to sponsor SB1277. This bill also takes an existing, successful infrastructure to support working families who can’t afford quality child care and allows them to find the option that works best for them so they can go to work with a clear conscience -- as many families are longing to do.
If we work together to continue to find proven solutions, we can move the needle in our graduation and reading rates and fix our teacher shortage. It is going to be a lot of work, but we must continue to take steps to boost funding for P-20 education in Arizona — so every child can live up to their full potential.