KINGMAN – Mayor Monica Gates was among hundreds of political and education officials who attended a town hall in Mesa to look at how to best fund the state’s pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education system and train our future workforce.
The town hall, which took place Nov. 12-15, was a gathering of Arizonans who have been putting in their time, knowledge and perspectives to come up with the best funding mechanisms to meet education goals.
It was informative and productive, Gates said.
People talked about improving education in Arizona by recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers, she said. That’s going to require increasing teacher salaries to the national average and empowering them to effectively educate students and have an impact on their lives.
“We need to implement all-day kindergarten to give Arizona’s youngest students a head start,” Gates added. “We must repair and maintain our failing facilities.”
Among the funding mechanisms discussed were the possibility of an excise tax, broadening the sales to include services, a sales or property tax earmarked for education and extension of Prop 301, a 0.6 percent additional sales tax passed in 2000 for education.
Gates said she will engage elected officials, community leaders and residents of Kingman to prioritize and support improvements to Arizona’s education system.
“Recognizing that education is a crucial component of workforce and economic development, we must make a significant investment in our future,” the mayor said.
A number of key issues were explored at the town hall: teacher pay, high school graduation rates, classroom size, third-grade reading and eighth-grade math scores, preschool enrollment, gaps in ethnicity or household income, college enrollment, post-secondary attainment and parent choices.
Town hall participants examined what’s working in K-12 education and what’s not, what to keep and what to throw away. Education teams from around the state are already putting forth big ideas and small tweaks.
“If Arizona wants to develop the next space explorers or social media startup, then maybe there is a big shift in funding processes,” the town hall report said. “If a boost is needed in graduation rates to attract more rooftops and business relocations, and trades people trained to build those buildings, then perhaps innovative ideas are the best remedy.”
The Arizona Town Hall, a statewide organization that moderates consensus dialogue and fact-based respectful discussion, will ultimately lead to a comprehensive report filled with recommendations to support the education goals.