The Arizona Capitol Times recognized Emily Anne Gullickson, President & Founder, Great Leaders, Strong Schools; CEO & Founder, A for Arizona as a 2021 Leaders of the Year in Education. Each year, the Arizona Capitol Times recognizes men, women and organizations that have contributed greatly to the growth of our state. These are the people and groups that hunker down each day to find ways to improve the quality of life of Arizona’s citizens. The awardees will be recognized in an awards night at 6 p.m. on Sept. 28. They will also be profiled in a special edition of the Arizona Capitol Times.
A new Arizona law set to take effect later this month will allow school districts to experiment with new learning environments and new kinds of schedules. Supporters say the measure is about flexibility and letting schools tailor classes and educational models to meet their — and their students’ — needs. Emily Anne Gullickson is the founder and president of the education group Great Leaders, Strong Schools and backs the new law.
While efforts to broadly expand Empowerment Scholarship Account, or vouchers, eligibility failed this year, school choice advocates found other reasons to celebrate the legislative session.
A budget adopted last week by lawmakers in Arizona includes two key provisions geared toward expanding access to schools of choice for the state’s K-12 students. A $10 million allocation will establish transportation innovation grants that school districts, charter schools, and other community groups can use to help students attend a school that formerly may have been unavailable to them due to a lack of transportation options. In addition to the grants, funding can be used to modernize existing transportation systems. The budget also makes the school district open enrollment system more transparent.
The sudden shift to distance learning last year forced states across the country quickly to provide schools with flexibility around how they accounted for student attendance or “seat time” requirements. Arizona established a system for school districts to adopt their own unique instructional time models that satisfy the state’s existing requirements for attendance.
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.
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.
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.