January 10, 2022

2022 State of the State: Addressing Ducey’s Education Agenda

Today the Governor delivered his 8th and final State of the State address where he laid out his vision for Arizona for the year ahead. We heard the Governor discuss his priorities of water, economy, education, public and border safety.

The Governor called the state of the state “strong” and focused the theme of his speech on Arizona being “unstoppable.”  As Governor, he pledged to “make the most of every moment” in his final year in office.

When it comes to education, the Governor proposed ideas to create skill centers at community colleges for advanced manufacturing, waiving tuition for military spouses to pursue postsecondary education, and creating an 8-week summer camp to help students catch up from learning disrupted by the pandemic. He also made general calls for K-12 curriculum to be posted online, outlawing critical race theory and expanding school choice.

The proposal for community colleges would prepare Arizonans for advanced manufacturing jobs in six communities across the state. We’re interested in learning more about this proposal, given its potential impact on education attainment, and will await the details in the budget, which will be released on Friday.

We’d also like to learn more about the 8-week summer camp he proposed to help students recover from interrupted learning from the pandemic. The summer camp would be focused on math, reading and civics and would be prioritized for low-income students and those scoring less than proficient on the state assessment. It would be funded using Federal COVID relief dollars. This is a one-time initiative that could be a helpful strategy for some students and schools, and must be complemented with sustained support over multiple years to help our students to catch up, achieve at grade level and thrive.

We expect to see additional details on these and possibly other proposals in the budget the Governor will release on Friday.

What would we have liked to hear in the State of the State address?

We had hoped to hear a greater sense of urgency and focus on supporting our students and educators. If we truly want Arizona to be unstoppable, our priority should be increasing education attainment across the entire P-20 continuum. Increasing our attainment rate to the national average would generate more than $7B for Arizona’s economy. To do that, we must act with urgency now to support our students and educators P-20.

This is the third school year that has been impacted by the COVID pandemic and our student outcomes are declining across the board as a result. Our early education programs and K-12 schools are struggling to have educators leading their classrooms. According to recently released Education Progress Meter data, fewer children have access to quality early learning and less are graduating from high school or pursuing postsecondary education. Arizona’s low-income students and students of color have been impacted the most by the pandemic. We should prioritize the additional resources they need to succeed, including support for their teachers and school leaders.

What should be done in 2022?

  • Address the aggregate expenditure limit immediately – $1.1B of existing K-12 funding is at risk if the legislature doesn’t act by March 1st. This is the most pressing issue for K-12 education this legislative session. If action is not taken, schools would be forced to make mid-year budget cuts of approximately 16%, which would have a devastating impact.
  • Solve for the teacher and substitute shortages in early education and K-12 education
  • Expand opportunities for students to pursue postsecondary education (e.g. dual enrollment and the Arizona Promise Program)
  • Ramp up support for literacy to help students needing it the most
  • Allocate additional funding to Arizona’s P-20 education system with a focus on students in greatest need

To learn more about these issues or to use your voice to elevate these priorities to your elected leaders, sign up to be a part of Education Forward Arizona’s advocacy network.