Watson: Ducey education plan supports bright horizon for local educators


There are some big changes on the horizon for education in Maricopa County, if Gov. Ducey’s legislative agenda continues to get a good reception from our state lawmakers.

Last week Gov. Ducey laid out an education plan that builds on his prior commitment to raise teacher pay, which is proving to be the most effective way to retain teachers in our schools across Maricopa County.

That’s important because some of our best teachers have been leaving for other jobs --- thanks to our strong economy --- and teacher pay has not been quick enough to respond to those market forces.

This situation leaves our students with fewer teachers and more students per classroom. Voters understand that’s not good for our kids and our society --- and if it goes on too long, also lowers property values in our communities.

A few months ago one-third of Maricopa County school districts asked their local voters to re-approve existing overrides in their current budgets, and nearly all were approved.

You can expect more districts in the coming November election to ask voters to approve additional spending or bonds for school construction.

Education funding for our district schools is a combination of two factors: School board members elected by local decision-making by voters, and the state budget decided by the legislature and governor working together.

That’s why Governor Ducey’s push to continue to improve teacher pay is so important: Because doing so supports what the majority of voters are saying: We’re willing to pay more for great teachers and great schools.

This is an important message for our Legislature to hear.

As the governor has pointed out, the reforms over the past few years have been working. Per-student spending has increased, academics are improving, interest in civics education is increasing, and Arizona now has the second-highest growth in enrollment in teacher-prep programs in the country.

The Arizona Teacher’s Academy now has more than two thousand participants, and it’s a great way for someone to become a teacher without taking on a huge student loan debt. If you graduate from the Academy and stay and teach in Arizona, your tuition is covered.

These reforms, along with resources to help low-income families receive a top-quality education for their families, are all part of the amazing progress we’re making together in education.

Editor’s note: Mr. Watson is the Maricopa County School Superintendent