Education for Children & Families First
Quality education is critical to the future of our state, and our nation. Yet while Arizona has poured billions of additional dollars into our schools in recent years, results and outcomes achieved by that additional spending have been essentially unchanged. Worse, when Covid-19 hit, government schools were immediately shuttered and kids forced into years of masked, distanced, box-lunched education that has directly harmed their mental well-being and stifled their educational attainment in direct contravention of the actual science followed by virtually every other nation on earth.
Charter schools provide the silver lining in Arizona education. Many remained open for in-person instruction throughout the bulk of the pandemic. In 2020-21, Arizona charter schools saw an 8.7 percent increase in enrollment. Over 230,000 Arizona students are enrolled in charter schools, representing the highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools of any state. Arizona charter schools are among the best in the nation. And Arizona charters outperform their peer government-run schools in nearly every metric. All this, despite lower per-student funding than traditional government-run schools, which receive federal and local sources of funding not available to charters.
It is essential that Arizona focus on developing students capable of taking on the challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution – both in the knowledge economy and physical workforce. And while charter schools are an essential element of that development, with many schools such as the Basis and Great Hearts networks producing extremely well-educated, college-bound graduates with high-level skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects, many areas of Arizona – particularly rural areas – do not have access to these schools. Other students choose government-run schools for sports and extracurricular opportunities, or simply because their location and bus services provide greater convenience for families.
The Republican focus in education - which has been largely devoted to promoting and developing the nation’s strongest charter system, and our vibrant private school choice programs through Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, School Tuition Organization, and Scholarship Tax Credit program have produced excellent results for students attending those institutions. And while these programs have benefitted tens of thousands of Arizona families, there are hundreds of thousands more that need better access to them. The next governor of the state must put forward a plan to address improving educational outcomes and opportunities for all students, whether attending traditional government-run schools, charters, private schools, alternative learning, or homeschool students.
100% Backpack Funding
School choice improves outcomes for children of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. That’s why we’re going to fund students, not systems. As parents, you decide where you want your kid to go to school, send them there, and their state funding will follow them. No waitlists, no applications, no hurdles or hoops to jump through, period.
Further, this funding will be fractionalized by course, so that parents and students can mix and match the best educational opportunities available to them. So, for example, if a parent has a kid in a large government-run school for sports, but wants them to be able to take select advanced courses via another institution, they will be able to do that, without paying out of pocket for those services.
Additionally, this funding will be available to parents who wish to seek out alternative learning arrangements, such as neighborhood pods, for their kids.
This is 100% school choice, without barriers – you decide what’s best for your kid, and you direct your tax dollars towards the educational opportunities that fit your family’s needs.
Dual Track Education After 10th Grade:
Technical education offers a path to highly paid, stable careers, without the crushing debt colleges and universities have foisted on students since the federal government began guaranteeing student loans. Additionally, these careers offer higher earnings potential leading to better economic outcomes for students. Traditional technical fields such as construction, automotive repair, plumbing, welding, etc. – which pay well and are in high demand – are being supplemented by advanced programs in coding, high tech manufacturing, medical support, and laboratory sciences, among many others.
Arizona’s recent high-tech growth is vastly increasing the demand for trained individuals in these fields and many others. Graduates from Arizona’s handful of technical academies, such as the East Valley Institute of Technology are earning high-paying jobs in rewarding fields immediately out of high school. Further, the only way to alleviate Arizona’s housing crisis going forward is to build more housing – and we need thousands more skilled tradesmen and women to do it.
My goal is to create a statewide system of these institutions, with a particular focus on rural Arizona, that will work hand-in-hand with business and industry leaders to ensure that every single student in our state has the opportunity to decide between pursuing a traditional four-year college track, or a technical degree field, after 10th grade.
Covid: Vaccine & Mask Mandates, School Closures:
You have a right to decide what medical treatments and procedures are appropriate for your children, and should not be forced to subject them to unproven and largely untested vaccines rushed through by the federal government.
Further, masking children in school has been shown to have negative effects on their social development and language skills. It’s time to end the covid theater. If you and your kids choose to wear masks, that’s your decision, it should never be a mandate, and under my leadership it will not be.
Lastly, remote learning done by districts with no experience in online education was a disaster that will not be repeated. School closures and remote learning requirements will not be allowed to continue or return, period. Many of our children – particularly those most vulnerable children who were already experiencing poverty and the numerous educational deficits attached to it - lost over a year and a half of education, and the results will be felt for a generation. Indeed, the World Bank estimates that learning loss due to remote learning during covid could cost students worldwide as much as $17 trillion in lifetime earnings.
No More “Teaching to the Test”
One of the primary complaints I’ve heard from students, teachers, and parents alike is the pressure of “teaching to the test”, as a significant portion of each school year is devoted to preparation for the AZMerit testing program. Further, data shows that teaching to the test is harming students and stunting their educational growth. We’re going to end it. Annual state-mandated testing will be replaced by every student taking the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades, so that only 3 tests are required by the state during a student’s career, instead of annual testing beginning in the 3rd grade.
The NAEP is the gold standard of internationally-benchmarked tests, and provides a direct comparison between Arizona students and those elsewhere in the United States and around the world. Per federal funding guidelines, schools will still be required to submit an annual assessment plan. However, unlike AZMerit and similar testing requirements, these assessments will make it clear to parents how their child is doing and will be focused on providing benchmarking for schools to develop instructional plans to improve outcomes for each student - unlike AZMerit and similar tests whose scores come with high stakes, and for which results are not provided until well into the following school year, eliminating their usefulness as instructional tools.
Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum
Arizona schools should not be used as factories to churn out deliberately mis-educated progressive activists. Accordingly, we will align state standards to the Hillsdale 1776 curriculum, and end the progressive indoctrination of students being undertaken in concert with the a-historical and factually inaccurate 1619 Project curriculum. Even the authors of the 1619 Project admit is not history, but an attempt to build and control a narrative for political purposes. Unlike the 1619 Project, the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum is factually accurate, presents a balanced view of U.S. history, and is available for free to schools across the country.
Strengthen Ban on Critical Race Theory and Other Radical Ideologies
In line with the shift to a more balanced and historically accurate narrative in history and social studies, we will strengthen Arizona’s ban on Critical Race Theory, and any associated curriculum (including Social-Emotional Learning and Diversity Equity and Inclusion programs) which have adopted the tenants of CRT in their materials. These programs have created a culture of fear and race-based animosity which are tearing our schools and our kids apart. Kids are afraid to speak their minds for fear of retribution from peers and school officials alike. It has to stop.
Martin Luther King Jr. had it exactly right when he called for a nation where people would be judged on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. We’re going to get Arizona back to that ideal.
Despite what the radical indoctrinators peddling this garbage will say, the United States was not and is not built on a foundation of racism. We do not need to view all outcomes as a result of race. And telling students that they are either oppressors or oppressed based on pigmentation is evil. We won’t tolerate it, and will root out this hateful indoctrination, no matter how many times practitioners try to re-brand their garbage ideology.
Increase Teacher Pay, Not Administration
Supporters of Government-run schools constantly demand more money for teachers, but routinely take the increased funding that has been provided and allocate it to ever-increasing administrative bloat and underutilized facilities. It’s a shell game – one in which teachers are used as pawns by their own unions and associations – and all the evidence suggests the real objective is to fund and support the political objectives of union leaders at the expense of students, parents, and teachers alike.
(Keep in mind that most of the data presented here – due to reporting lag - does not reflect the significant increases in school funding since 2019). School funding is now at historically high levels both in Arizona and across the country. And yet, adjusted for inflation, teacher salaries have remained essentially flat, even declining in some cases, including Arizona. At the same time, administrator salaries have spiked, as have the number of administrators employed by school districts.
Government-run school leaders appear to be deliberately keeping teacher pay low so they can be used as sympathetic figureheads in a quest for additional funds, which then will largely be used to continue padding administrative budgets. School boards in Arizona have been, frankly, derelict in overseeing funds, most often simply acquiescing to the demands of the Superintendents who, supposedly, work for them, but whom many school board members see as the ultimate authority for their districts.
Further, there is no evidence that increased funding of government-run schools results in student gains. Many of the most highly-funded government-run schools in America have results similar to, or worse than, those of Arizona students, including New York ($25,139 per pupil per year), the District of Columbia ($22,406), and California ($20,000+).
However, like many states, Arizona does not have enough classroom teachers. Past efforts to increase teacher pay, including current Governor Ducey’s 20x2020 Plan, have resulted in gains, however, large portions of those funds have been redirected to other areas of spending, particularly administration, and most of the gains in teacher pay should already have been accounted for from increases in the standard funding formulas for schools. In short, teachers have received thousands of dollars per year less than was earmarked for them by the legislature. It is therefore entirely clear that while we need to provide more money (and a better work environment) for teachers, we cannot trust school districts to direct allocated funds to teachers, as they continue to play games to keep teacher pay low for publicity purposes and to aid in the acquisition of additional funds.
Therefore, as Governor, I will focus on providing direct additional assistance to teachers using appropriated additions to the Prop 301 funding formula for teacher bonus incentives. There’s nothing I’d like more than to have our excelling teachers make exponentially more money through their bonus pay. If they are performing well and helping our kids improve, they should be compensated accordingly. I want our best teachers to be recognized and to be the highest paid in the country.
Update and Expand Parents Bill of Rights
As government-run school classrooms have increasingly become less about educational outcomes, and more about leftist ideological indoctrination, it is more critical than ever that parents have direct, easy access to the curriculum, assignments, and projects their children are being exposed to, and especially to have control of any medical decisions being made for or by your kids. Therefore, I will push to expand Arizona’s Parents Bill of Rights, modeled on the recent legislation passed in Florida.
Put simply: you have a right to know what your kids are being taught, how they’re being taught, and to make any medical decisions for minor students without interference or obstruction from your school, district, or the State of Arizona.
Sex Education Starts in 5th Grade
Radicalized sex education for children under the age of 10 has no place in our school system, and there is no reason to allow these programs to continue infiltrating schools all the way down to the kindergarten level. We will ban these programs entirely for K-4 students, who are too young and impressionable to have permanent life choices foisted on them by authority figures in the classroom. We do not need activist-educators pushing their sexuality or personal sexual preferences on little children, and under my leadership, it will simply not be tolerated.
Homeschool parents are rightly proud of the gains they have made to be accepted as equals within the educational system of Arizona. We will support those gains to the fullest by continuing to require all Arizona universities to treat the transcripts of homeschool students as equal to those of any other student. Further, under my administration, parents who choose to homeschool their children will be given a seat at the table on both the state Board of Education and Board of Regents. Homeschool students are achieving at extremely high levels in every area of academic and career attainment, and the sacrifices of the parents who have made this commitment deserve to be recognized.
When it comes to education, we all want the same thing: better schools, better results, and better pay for great teachers. How we get there is the challenge, and my education plan does just that. If we can ensure that our precious tax dollars actually end up in the classroom, directly benefitting students, we will be able to better compensate our great teachers and attract a new generation of dedicated, inspired educators. It’s simple: the better the teacher, the better chance our students will thrive. We also need more options for parents. Much like we saw with Obamacare, we know that a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach from government does not work. It doesn’t work in healthcare, and it doesn’t work in education, either. Our children are all made gloriously different by God. They all have unique and individual learning needs and their families need every option available to them so they can pursue the education model that best fits them. We must restore power to the parents and super-charge the achievement of our students
It is time to put families, kids, and teachers first. This plan outlines a significant commitment to that objective.