The fiscal year 2022 state budget adopted by lawmakers last week and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey contains provisions that will expand access to schools of choice for Arizona’s K-12 students, achieving goals established by education advocates and the governor at the outset of the legislative session.
As an Arizona native and product of our public schools, I am proud that Arizona has become a national leader for school choice and allowing families to access multiple public school options that best meet the needs of their children. As a mom and member of the Agua Fria Union High School Governing Board, I know that access to a quality classroom can change a child’s life for the better. I am an education advocate, which means I support policies that empower every family to make the best education decision for their children.
Arizona is a national leader when it comes to diverse school options. Having a statewide culture that embraces creativity and innovation in K-12 public education is critical for creating learning environments that allow every child to feel safe and thrive.
As a widow with children who attend public school, I know first-hand how difficult it is to physically get your child to a quality public school. I have five boys, four of them at different grade levels and schools. It is impossible to get them to their destinations when two have school at the same time. This is a reality for many parents.
Arizona lawmakers just cracked the code for education funding in Arizona. But perhaps not in the way they intended. The breakthrough came during Phoenix mom Elyssa Garcia’s testimony on SB 1280, a bill which would provide much needed transportation funding flexibility for Arizona public school families.
A bill proposing changes to instructional time models for Arizona’s K-12 schools could reduce limitations that have prevented them from adopting non-traditional models more tailored to the needs of individual students.
Although Arizona established public school open enrollment nearly four decades ago, it is time we modernize the system to be more transparent, equitable and easily accessible. Students and parents should not have to camp outside of school buildings overnight in the hopes of being able to attend a school. We have heard and seen examples of parents having to navigate mountains of paperwork, not even being able to find the enrollment procedures online for a school, and being denied for arbitrary and discriminatory reasons like having special needs.
While it is easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges the pandemic created in education, Arizona is taking a bold step to identify the possibilities for education improvements. House Bill 2862 is an example of how Arizona policymakers quickly identified flexibilities that could be provided to districts and schools during the pandemic to better meet the needs of all students across the state.
Despite widespread advances in technology and educational research in recent decades, most states use a one-size-fits-all public education model that looks largely the same as it did a century ago. But Arizona has been an outlier, leading the way in expanding educational opportunities and providing families with options that allow them to find a school that best fits the needs of their students. Now, policymakers in Arizona are once blazing education innovation trails with a bill that would give educators even greater flexibility to adopt learning models that fit the unique needs of students.
For decades, attendance zones have intentionally blocked out predominantly students of color, students with disabilities and low-income students from the best public schools. This must stop. Enrollment processes like 'first come, first serve' disenfranchise the working poor who cannot afford to miss days of work to wait in line and schools should not be asking questions like the birth country of origin before a child is enrolled.