Arizona’s long-term economic prosperity and our individual quality of life depend on our ability to deliver a world-class education for all students. With the input of many of our statewide leaders and community partners, we’ve developed a framework for what we believe makes up a world-class education, called the Five Building Blocks of a World-Class Education. In previous newsletters, we’ve explored the first three building blocks: World-Class Achievement, Excellence for All and Commitment to Innovation. This month, we are taking a closer look at the fourth building block: Strategic Investment.
In order to achieve a world-class education for all students, we must strategically invest new and existing resources in education, from birth through career. Currently, Arizona ranks 47th in per pupil public K-12 funding (U.S. Census Bureau) and has seen the largest cuts in per pupil expenditures (21.8%) over the past five years (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities).
It is without question that additional funding is needed to support education in Arizona, however, more resources alone will not get us to world-class education. We need Arizona’s education funding, programs and policies to be focused on improving student achievement, supporting teachers and helping schools provide a world-class education from birth through career.
There are many examples of strategic investment in our state. And, they are seen throughout the education continuum. For example, Educare Arizona is pioneering a model that braids state, federal and private early childhood resources to deliver the highest-quality early childhood education and care to young children from birth to age five.
Educare Arizona is a public-private partnership of philanthropists (Whiteman Foundation, the Steve Nash Foundation, Ibis Foundation of Arizona, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and Buffett Early Childhood Fund), the Balsz Elementary School District, and Southwest Human Development. Located east of downtown Phoenix, the school opened in fall 2011 and provides high-quality early childhood education to nearly 200 at-risk infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Educare Arizona is part of a growing national network of 17 Educare sites all dedicated to inspiring higher quality programs throughout each community, more effective public policies within each state, and a smarter national approach to the first five years of life and learning.
Educare uses a research-based model that builds on the strong foundation of Head Start to provide high-quality full day, full year programs to low-income children to close the achievement gap. The program helps infants, toddlers and preschoolers build the skills they need to arrive at kindergarten safe, healthy, eager to learn and ready for school. Educare Arizona also provides wrap around services to support students and families’ behavioral health and medical and dental needs.
Educare is committed to accountability by engaging in ongoing assessment and tracking of results at the site and network levels. Early data from Educare programs in five cities –Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, Omaha and Tulsa – reveal promising results. The data show that the more time children spend in Educare, the better prepared they are for kindergarten, with children who began at Educare between birth and two years old exceeding the national average for school readiness by 9 points upon kindergarten entry.
Investments in early childhood help set children on the trajectory for future academic and professional success. Research also shows significant societal benefits, including reduced need for future expenditures on special education, public assistance, workforce training and law enforcement programs. Educare seeks to leverage existing public and private funding for early childhood education and encourage increased investments to benefit individual children and families and entire communities.
As we continue to work toward a world-class education system for all Arizona students, we must advocate for additional resources and also ensure that the existing resources bring the greatest return on investment possible.
Educare Arizona is a great example of a public-private partnership and has leveraged new and existing funds and resources in strategic ways to provide a world-class education. To learn more about Educare Arizona, visit: http://www.educarearizona.org/index.php
Read more October Newsletter Articles:
Partnership with All A’s Brings Teachers’ Voices to the Forefront
Arizona Showed Up 4 Education on 10/10!
Understanding the New School Letter Grades
Flagstaff Named America’s First STEM Community