Where a family lives, how much money they make, or their race or ethnicity should not dictate the quality of education that a student receives. Arizona voters overwhelmingly agree with this statement, so why then are so many of our students lagging behind? For example, far from the state’s 45 percent goal, less than one quarter of Arizona’s three- and four-year-olds are currently enrolled in a quality early learning program and the latest reading and math proficiency scores show a growing achievement gap. Or consider that slightly more than four of 10 adults hold degrees or credentials – far from the 60 percent target needed to fill the jobs of the future and support our growing economy. In addition, while the state budget included some of the largest investments in teacher pay in memory, we still have a long way to go to reach the national median.

Here’s another statement the vast majority of Arizonans agree with: Education unlocks the potential of individuals and communities. Investments in students, educators and classrooms have an enormous return for our state. A strong P-20 education system will create and support a talent pipeline that attracts diverse businesses to Arizona. A more educated and skilled workforce will also increase business and personal income, grow revenues for the state to invest in other critical needs and decrease the dependence on social safety nets. The long-term prosperity of Arizona depends on greater levels of educational attainment that will lower crime rates, improve personal health and create more resiliency to changes in the economy.

As things stand today, investments in education are far from where they need to be to meet the shared goals in the Arizona Education Progress Meter, close persistent achievement gaps, and invigorate economic growth. Despite important investments made recently in teacher pay and other parts of the system, all of education – from quality early learning to postsecondary – is in need of additional resources.