Expand Preschool and Full-Day Kindergarten Programs
Participation in preschool programs results in improved reading, writing, and math skills during elementary school. These gains are greater for children from low-income families or with limited English proficiency. Expanded preschool and all-day kindergarten reduces the high-cost of child care for working parents, allowing them to save or spend that money on other necessities for their children. The educational and economic benefits of expanded preschool and all-day kindergarten have the greatest impact on parents and children with the most serious educational and financial need, but benefit all of Arizona’s parents and children. With the benefits as clear as they are, Arizona cannot afford to remain among the states with the lowest rates of preschool enrollment.
Improve Graduation Rates
Students who drop out of school have higher unemployment rates, higher healthcare costs, and are more likely to need government assistance. Ensuring Arizona’s students have a bright future requires providing the skills they need to succeed in a modern economy.
Not all students will attend college, but everyone needs job skills. Students benefit from multiple pathways to graduation, including Career and Technical Education (CTE). Nationally, participants in CTE programs have a graduation rate of 93%, making these programs a demonstrated path to a good career. Graduates from these programs have access to high-paying jobs that are in demand in Arizona today, in fields that are the foundation of innovation and growth in a 21st century economy.
English Language Learners
English Language Learning (ELL) students are seriously disadvantaged in our schools. As a result, Arizona has the lowest graduation rate of ELL students in the country and nearly twice as many Hispanic students drop out compared to their White non-Hispanic peers. These students face systematic discrimination due to unfair disciplinary policies and the requirement to demonstrate learning on English-only exams.
My research at the University of Arizona and research nationwide demonstrates that students who are supported with learning English in their native language show higher proficiency in both languages. Bilingual education improves overall academic performance, graduation rates, and consequently, the ability of students participate fully in society. We must treat bilingualism as a professional asset, not a deficit.
Click here to read my op-ed on bilingual education issues.
Support Special Education
As a speech therapist in the public schools, I serve on a Special Education team that works to improve academic achievement and life skills of students with disabilities. I love spending every day helping students improve their communication and speech ability. Our students with disabilities need a voice in government who understands our complicated Special Education system and often complex needs of individual students.
Many of these students see a wide array of specialists and receive occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral support, and assistive technology to be successful in school. The process of receiving services is intimidating and overwhelming. I am committed to programs that provide resources and training to families who need support.
Click here to read my op-ed on special education issues.
Inclusion of the LGBTQ Community
Inclusive school policies begin with recognizing that all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, deserve the opportunity to attend school free from the fear of bullying and discrimination. LGBTQ students experience higher rates bullying, isolation, and homelessness. I am advocating for clear policies, support groups, and activities for LGBTQ students in all schools. Protecting the right of LGBTQ students to learn in an environment that rejects bullying and discrimination, welcomes family diversity, and promotes inclusivity must be a priority for our state and will be a priority when I am elected.
It is no secret that Arizona's teachers are severely underpaid compared to the national average. This disparity has resulted in Arizona being ranked “the least attractive state for teachers” by the Learning Policy Institute. The median teacher’s salary in Arizona is nearly $14,000 lower than the national average, while per student spending is nearly $4,000 below average. The issue here is painfully clear: The governor and most of our legislators do not support teachers and do not believer your child’s education is a priority for our state.
To end this crisis, our state must cease prioritizing tax breaks for corporations at the expense of you and your children. When teachers do not receive fair pay and benefits Arizona’s children are deprived of the quality education and economic opportunities they deserve.
Education in Rural Communities
One of the biggest mistakes we can make with rural education is treating rural schools the same as urban schools. Rural communities deal with higher rates of poverty, mental healthcare needs, suicides, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, less access to quality food, higher prevalence of seasonal work, and limited access to post-secondary education. These issues all impact the ability of students to obtain a quality education and are often rooted in the failure of the state to provide these communities with the infrastructure and services they need.
Stop the Expansion of Empowerment School Account (ESA) Vouchers
As a public school teacher, I do not support the expansion of ESA vouchers and will be voting NO on Prop 305 come November. If passed, Prop 305 would further defund our public schools. This is terrifying. As my priorities include increasing teacher pay and student resources, our school districts cannot afford to have their budgets depleted by vouchers. I support school choice. However, I believe that the best choice for most families is to have a high quality public school for every child and in every neighborhood across the state. ESA vouchers simply do not support that vision of education.