January 10, 2024

2024 State of the State: Addressing Hobbs’s Education Agenda

On Monday, January 8, Governor Katie Hobbs presented  her second State of the State address, laying out her vision for Arizona and her legislative priorities for the year ahead.

Increasing educational attainment is the North Star that guides Education Forward Arizona’s work. It is encouraging that many of the Governor’s education priorities support the organization’s pursuit of reaching the state’s Achieve60AZ attainment goal. The Achieve60AZ goal is that 60% of Arizona adults will have a degree, high-demand workforce certification, or other high value credential earned beyond high school by 2030 that allows them to achieve a better quality of life for themselves and their families. It is indisputable that education is key to a skilled  workforce and expanded economic mobility that leads to a brighter future for all Arizonans. Education Forward Arizona stands ready to work with the Governor and Arizona’s legislative leaders to support policies and investments intended to increase student success and attainment, and align with our organization’s advocacy priorities, including:

  • Advocating for Dual Enrollment and other initiatives that increase access to education and training after high school
  • Expanding the Arizona College Promise Program
  • Agreeing on a permanent solution to the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL)
  • Strengthening accountability and transparency around Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs)
  • Supporting P-20 education funding

In her speech the Governor recognized that Arizona schools provide students with the skills needed in the 21st century and the need to ensure that “schools are safe and places of opportunity.” As reported in the 2023 report released by Helios Education Foundation and Education Forward Arizona, titled “Billions to Gain”, a strong education system followed by increased enrollment and students success in education pathways beyond high school will lead to Billions of dollars in additional social and economic gains for individuals, their families, communities and the State.

Higher Education and Scholarship Programs

Governor Hobbs emphasized the value and importance of higher education to create a strong economy built on high demand, high wage jobs in the growing technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare professional sectors. Scholarships to community colleges and universities, along with support for apprenticeships through the proposed Build It AZ Apprenticeship Initiative, have the potential to strengthen Arizona’s ability to support the state’s largest employers in identifying and securing the 21st century workforce needed to move the economy forward. Governor Hobbs stated that “we have a duty to make higher education as accessible as possible,” and expressed the importance of investing in scholarships and programs that allow more students to earn college credits while still in high school, like dual enrollment courses.

“We have a duty to make higher education as accessible as possible,” Gov. Katie Hobbs.

These sentiments align with Education Forward Arizona’s goals of increasing access to dual enrollment courses and expanding the Arizona Promise Program, making college more affordable for students from low-income backgrounds and  increase access for all Arizonans to postsecondary education and training opportunities beyond high school.  Billions to Gain: The Economic Benefits of Investing in a More Educated Arizona, reveals just how much we stand to gain when more students from all backgrounds complete college – leading to $8.69 billion in economic gains per cohort.

“The time is now to do more to increase opportunities for postsecondary education and career connected training beyond high school for all Arizonans, leading to increased educational attainment and a better future for all Arizonans,” said Education Forward Arizona President and CEO, Rich Nickel. “Our team knows that Arizona has everything to gain when more Arizonans graduate from high school ready to be successful in their postsecondary opportunities, whether that is at one of Arizona’s public state universities, a local community college, or other accredited postsecondary institution. We are eager to work with Governor Hobbs, the Legislature, and policy makers to ensure that high quality, affordable education is accessible to all Arizonans, regardless of zip code or background.”

K-12 Funding and Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL)

Governor Hobbs also noted the bipartisan override for this school year to the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) that was passed in 2023 and called for a permanent or long-term bipartisan solution in 2024. She highlighted a bipartisan agreement that led to a $300 million infusion for K-12 schools in 2023 and called for support to increase compensation for teachers and support staff, stating they are “critical for student success”. Governor Hobbs indicated support for referring a strengthened Proposition 123 to the voters, to ensure a decade of continued funding for K-12 schools.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs)

Governor Hobbs also indicated that she will seek to build on last year’s efforts to increase transparency and accountability around Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. 

Arizona has Everything to Gain from a strong education system that prepares us for the 21st century economy.

Join us as we continue to advocate for the following:

  • Continued expansion of the Arizona College Promise Program
  • A permanent solution for the K-12 Aggregate Expenditure Limit and Community College Expenditure Limit
  • Increased access to Dual Enrollment for high school students and other initiatives that increase access to education and training after high school, and support for completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for high school students.
  • Increased accountability, transparency, and cost control of the Empowerment Scholarship Account Program

Become an Education Forward Advocate to learn more about these issues and how you can help.