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College Success Arizona / Arizona Town Hall Workshop on PreK-12 Education

Earlier this year, as a part of our Leadership Symposium, College Success Arizona scholars participated in an exercise with the Arizona Town Hall on the topic of PreK-12 Education.

Approximately 250 students participated in the exercise.

The following are the results, including our Scholars’ responses to specific questions.  Take a moment to read how today’s college students view Arizona’s PreK-12 Education System.

 Principal Goals for Arizona’s PreK-12 Education System

  • The process of preparing students for their future lives, as individuals, workers, and students pursuing higher education, should begin in elementary school.
  • Students need to learn about their options, including higher education majors and career options. Teachers should inspire their students to succeed, and make them aware of the importance and availability of higher education. Students should be encouraged and inspired to explore many options and to discover their interests and passions. They should be informed about the availability of higher education opportunities and prepared to succeed in college. These programs should be available for everyone, not just academic all stars. In addition, there should be more options and greater flexibility in curriculum, particularly in the last two years of high school.
  • Schools should be diverse. There should be liberal arts programs as well as STEM programs. Trade school and vocational education should be available for students who are not well suited to college, and students should be made aware of these options. There should be no stigma attached to the decision to pursue vocational education. There should also be bilingual schools.
  • Tutoring and other support for learning, such as TRiO programs, should be more available, with particular focus on students with low test scores and low incomes. Schools should provide modern technology, and information about careers in technical fields, including coding. There should be more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs. Schools should bring in outside speakers and resources to provide different perspectives and engage student interests. Students should be encouraged to participate in internship programs.
  • Education should not focus on academics alone. Students also need to focus on real world skills, including personal development, moral values, literacy and language skills, public policy and civics, leadership skills, community service and personal finance. Students should learn about how to file a tax return, how to buy a house, and how to make good decisions. We need more counselors and advisors to mentor students and help them to take the right courses to advance their personal objectives, explore career and education options, apply for admission to college, and obtain financial aid. Schools should offer opportunities for after school and enrichment programs, including peer mentorships. There should be more workshops for high school students.
  • Well-trained and well-paid teachers are a key to the success of Arizona’s education system. Teachers should be passionate about what they are doing, and rewarded for being inspirational and engaging.
  • It is also important to engage parents in the student’s education. Language barriers should be addressed and parents assisted as needed to make them more effective supporters of their children’s education.

How Funding Methods Impact Achievement of Arizona’s Educational Goals

  • Lack of qualified teachers is a significant problem. Low funding levels contribute to the problem of low teacher pay, which makes it difficult to recruit and retain quality teachers.  We should increase funding to increase teachers’ pay and encourage people to become educators and remain in the teaching profession. We should also provide funding to help teachers to become certified and pay for part of the costs of their education and for testing fees for tests required for certification. High student-teacher ratios yield poorer results.
  • Funding is also needed to provide appropriate training in high technology fields. To succeed in their future lives and careers, students need technology related skills, including internet access, typing, use of computers, and use of standard computer applications.
  • We need more emphasis on exercise/fitness, field trips, afterschool programs, classes that are applicable to everyday life, and tutoring. It is important to provide healthy, nutritious food and to encourage students to eat well so that they are prepared to learn. Participation in clubs should be required. Students should have more opportunities for hands on activities. We should promote programs that help parents to network for the benefit of schools and students. Some classes such as shop, that have been cut, could be restored with the help of parent and community volunteers.
  • Vouchers are hurting public schools. Money provided to charter schools is not always used for school purposes. Transportation is needed. Sometimes schools spend money in the wrong areas, and those decisions should be reconsidered. Students should be more involved in school administration, as their input could be helpful to making good decisions. For example, we should examine how much money is spent on sports, and consider reallocating that money to fund other programs and activities. Mini-town hall meetings could be held at every school to raise awareness of and help solve problems and issues.
  • School funding should not be based on test scores. Currently, schools with high test scores get more money; the opposite is what is needed. Relying on property taxes creates geographic discrimination. Funding and effort should be focused on all schools, not just the most privileged. It is hard for students to attend school outside their neighborhoods, due to lack of transportation and other issues. Urban, rural and tribal regions should be treated the same. We should avoid stigmatizing schools and students from challenged areas. Finally, the No Child Left Behind program is unfair and counterproductive.
  • Teacher qualification and motivation has a huge influence on students. If teachers don’t want to be there, students will not either. Teachers need incentives to be more engaged with students. Teachers should be provided funding for supplies and continuing education. We should consider exempting teachers from paying income tax. Better funding will bring in better teachers and programs.

How to Improve Amounts and Methods of Funding

  • Arizona public schools need more funding. Students in public schools should have resources equivalent to those attending private schools. Arizona seems to have enough money for prisons, but not enough to fund schools. Money should be diverted from less important priorities, such as the border wall, to funding of schools.
  • We should move away from reliance on the property tax system and increase community-based support. To raise more money for education we could increase sales taxes, and dedicate to education taxes from items such as marijuana, cigarettes, alcohol, and luxury items. We should consider using money from natural resources. There could be more fundraisers such as those at popular restaurants. Parents and alumni can be encouraged to support these efforts, and to make donations for the benefit of schools. Tax breaks should be available for people who donate to public schools.
  • Parents and others could volunteer to help out at schools, by tutoring and supporting students. Businesses and the community should also support schools. After all, they are relying on schools to train their future employees.
  • Everyone affected by public schools has a role to play in advocating for more funding. Legislators need to vote to increase funding. Parents can be involved in many ways, including through education tax credits. Education advocacy groups can advocate for funding and resources. Voters should become more educated about the issues and the position of elected officials, and more engaged in contacting elected officials to advocate for education funding. School boards should visit schools and be informed about school issues, successes as well as problems.

Messages to Arizona’s Elected Leaders

  • Help!
  • Education is a high priority and should be funded before lesser priorities. Why would people want to come to Arizona if its education system is poor? Arizona’s education system should move from 50th to 1st in the nation.
  • You are not just funding us, you are investing in us. Invest in our future leaders. You will see something in return. Our kids are our future, so we want them to be well educated.
  • You take away the soil and water and expect us to grow. How can you expect us to succeed when you are taking away our resources? Give us a chance. Redistribute state funding and give more to education.
  • You should serve for the good of the community, not your personal benefit.
  • Use the media to positively impact perceptions.
  • Visit our schools and identify their needs.
  • Address the issue of Dreamers. We need a Clean Dream Act.
  • Assure that students are knowledgeable before passing them to another grade level, through tutoring and other programs.
  • We need improvements in testing systems to identify and help fill the gaps for those who are over-accomplished in some subject areas and who need more challenging material, and for those who are struggling in some subject areas, and who need to get academic enrichment courses to succeed.
  • Pay teachers what they are worth.
  • Listen to your students, no matter their age. They have been through the system and can provide valuable information.
  • Stop standardized testing. Look at other testing options. Don’t teach for a test, teach for mastery of skills.
  • Spend more time making good laws. Don’t rush.
  • We need more independent decision making.
  • Focus on younger children, before it’s too late.
  • We need a long-term fix as well as short term/immediate solutions.
  • More focus on STEM.
  • For every dollar you cut from education, how would you feel if it were cut from your salary?
  • Send your own children and families to attend the lowest 1% schools in the state. How does that feel?
  • Take responsibility for your actions and judgments.
  • Do you remember being in school?
  • Get engaged in understanding students, teachers, and schools. Go to teacher association and community board meetings.
  • We need more attention to public schools than private schools.
  • Listen to public opinion. Just listen.
  • Put yourself in a student’s shoes, including those who attend public school and those from low income families.
  • Advocate and vote for school funding.
  • Do more for children and the future, and less for companies that don’t need assistance.
  • Require us to vote. Voting should be a national holiday.
  • We need a radical increase in funding for education.
  • Spending on education affects Arizona’s economy and other aspects of our society, such as welfare programs, careers and lifestyles.
  • Balance out where the money goes. All schools should share fairly.
  • Make sure teachers are certified.
  • Provide incentives for teachers.
  • Educate the public about education issues. Be more transparent.
  • Invest in a community or there will be no community.
  • Present information in several languages.
  • Don’t wait until a “problem” gets out of hand.

Actions by Individuals (students were asked to sign a pledge that stated:)

I WILL…

  • Advocate understanding the importance of investing real life preparation and college/higher education in K-12.
  • Get more politically involved in education.
  • Vote for increasing funds for low income schools in order to increase preparation for the real world and college.
  • Vote for leaders that care about education.
  • Talk to representatives and tell them to implement higher education style teaching.
  • Advocate for more interns and advisors that will continue to look for outreach programs that will keep students interested in what they want to pursue.
  • Be a helping hand to better our education system to encourage students.
  • Try to attend a city council meeting and advocate for better education funding and restructuring the curriculum to benefit student interests.
  • Become better informed on what can be done to help fund education and attend town halls. Therefore, I can make a right decision when voting.
  • Get informed in the areas we lack in and how to get involved to help these areas.
  • Challenge myself to motivate students in preK-12 and try to demonstrate the importance of continuing to become educated. I also want to donate and help in any way that I can once I graduate and begin my professional career.
  • Ask to have teachers that are certified and better pay for those teachers.
  • Vote and become more aware of issues regarding education and funding.
  • Go back to my high school and lower income schools after my higher education and become an advocate for those who think college is not for them. I will contact my representatives and make them aware of the poor education quality for low-income students.
  • Research successful education systems and advocate similar policies in my state.
  • Vote
    • Vote for pro-people legislators.
    • Vote to be politically active.
    • Vote to support teachers.
    • Vote appropriately and personally create laws.
    • Vote and think more about how funding preK-12 education affects the community.
    • Vote on bills that will help fund K-12 education, along with emailing my city officials on why more funding should be given.
    • Vote for better representatives.
    • Vote with the policies regarding paying teachers.
    • Vote for leaders with experience in the position they are running for.
    • Vote in 2018 elections.
    • Vote in local elections.
    • Vote and go to my local K-8 school and ask how my community can help or get involved.
    • Vote and become more educated and aware of my community.
    • Vote to help school funding.
    • Vote in November 2018.
    • Vote for political leaders.
    • Vote in the upcoming election, call representatives and petition.
    • Vote and be invested in the state government.
    • Vote for the greater cause instead of what other opinions are.
  • Join a club that pushes college success.
  • Become a community organizer and run for office. Represent grassroots, not legislatiors.
  • Educate myself in what is actually happening in the education field before voting. Also, involve myself in the community more in terms of helping out with STEM programs, etc.
  • Take part in college success programs to help high school students attain a secondary education. i.e. Upward Bound and Talen Search.
  • Engage in voting for officials as well as reach out to legislators with research and outcomes to the benefits of certain actions.
  • Encourage my parents to donate to K-12 schools as a way to receive tax credits.
  • Look into programs in my old high school that are student-led and will help out with volunteering. Help them achieve their goals and steer them in the right direction.
  • Graduate college/university with a bachelor’s degree and I will stop being a statistic.
  • Fund education (donate).
  • Educate myself.
  • Be civically engaged.
  • Become more informed when voting for legislation that affects school funding and be more a proactive voter.
  • Become as more informed individual to execute my power in voting for change in propositions dealing with the education system.
  • Help young kids I know learn about computers and teach my family about policies of the current education system.
  • Do more research to vote more wisely on policies and bills that benefit the greater good. Become more engaged with the Arizona government and legislation.
  • Volunteer with an organization or public agency to do social outreach that would show the percentage of the public who would choose to increase public education funding. Another option is to attend board district meetings to voice my opinion.
  • Go to the march to Save Our Schools. Attend school board meetings.
  • Teach! Advocate for things needed in the district, school and my classroom. Also, vote!
  • Increase awareness on facts and involvement through well-educated decisions.
  • Go back to community and return the “favor.”
  • Advocate and investigate the “NO’s.”
  • Speak up against injustice.
  • Contact my local legislator regarding preK-12 funding.
  • Start a non-profit scholarship for undocumented and DACA students.
  • Go back to my high school and provide my knowledge on voting and tutoring support.
  • Register to vote.
  • Inform parents about tax credits.
  • Help those that are unaware of the programs that exist and encourage our youth to apply for scholarships.
  • Continue to contact my representatives and legislators about issues that are important to my community and look for ways to take action, such as attending a town hall meeting.
  • Inform my friends about the lack of education funding and spread awareness. Reach out to elected officials.
  • Continue to vote. Be more aware of issues to be involved with, participate in petitions and raise awareness.
  • Research more about the legislature in Arizona to be informed and know what to get involved in and vote on.
  • Write a letter to my current senator discussing the principal goals for our community’s education system and encourage them to listen and see what the community’s solutions are to increase funding in education.
  • Reach out to my senator and vote.
  • Increase awareness to give students the opportunity to be exposed to different career routes and that all starts by funding. Also, I will be active in my community and stand up for those who don’t.
  • Get more involved with K-12 funding. I am more aware of this problem and I believe education is important. I will write/email an Arizona elected leader and vote yes to K-12 funding.
  • Take what I learn here and apply it and discuss it with my youth leadership council members. Then, I will take it to the elected officials of Arizona.
  • Have discussions with elected officials.
  • Help more students get into college.
  • Work/volunteer at college.
  • Hold state’s elected leaders to their promises.
  • Participate in education development.
  • Participate in my community.
  • Take steps to make an impact in Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) and have small businesses invest in schools.
  • Explain to others how important education is.
  • Continue to have conversations with our congress/councilman.
  • Begin to advocate for things I believe in. As for voting my opinion and trying to make my voice heard.
  • Encourage lawmakers to focus investment spending on youth, especially from K-8, to mold them to be adequately prepared students for high school.
  • Become involved in my community to help students like me.
  • Be the voice of the kids who feel unrepresented from minority areas.
  • Lead for success in the community and for myself.
  • Pursue my career in education and teach my students to the best of my ability.
  • Take action with an organization that promotes higher education.
  • Be more politically involved.
  • Better focus on the education system.
  • Remain informed about my city/state elections in order to vote with confidence and purpose that I’m helping my community.
  • Donate money when I become rich.
  • Become educated in politics and topics to vote on, then vote.
  • Be an advocate at my university for allocating funding to public education.
  • Look into all bills before voting to make an educated decision on how best to vote.
  • Call my representatives.
  • Make people more aware and think about the issues surrounding us today.
  • Pay more attention to the system and what our state and country is doing for our education.
  • Pay more attention and make educated votes.
  • Tell leaders to invest more in education and teachers.
  • Give my time to help my school.
  • Give back to my community.
  • Inform my family and peers about education and importance of voting.
  • Give back to education with my experience and time.
  • Give back to my community and push others to do the same with theirs.
  • Make money and give to tax credits and scholarships.
  • Commit to be a leader within my school and go back to my community to give back to those in need and be a voice for others.
  • Talk to someone to try and involve more parents in children’s education.
  • Be a more active member of my close community, speaking to different schools and motivating them to push through adversity. Take action into your own hands.
  • Motivate and help students in preK-12 to find their passions early on.
  • Pay more attention to funding in schools and try to go to board meetings. Get out there and vote responsibly.
  • Take more time to understand what I am voting for.
  • Stay educated on the issues at hand.
  • Attend more town hall or school board meetings.
  • Succeed, share my experience, and help younger generations get scholarships.
  • Take action and make education my weapon.

For information on Arizona Town Hall, visit their website.

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