Getting your child ready for kindergarten

Families with children entering kindergarten next school year should already be thinking about getting their child ready for their first day of school. In fact, many schools hold their kindergarten registration events beginning early in the year. First Things First (FTF), Arizona’s early childhood agency, funds early learning, family support and children’s healthy development to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Early learning sets the foundation for later academic learning, and parents are a child’s first teacher. FTF Early Learning Program Specialist Cami Foulks said there are many things that parents can do at home to prepare their child for kindergarten. “Families can begin to make home-to-school connections,” Foulks said. “You want to do things with your child that will create a memory connection for them.” For example, it is never too early to start reading to them for at least 15 minutes a day. “They’ll be singing and reading lots of books, coloring, painting, playing outside,” Foulks said. “You can make those connections at home. Preparation is key.” FTF has resources to help parents and caregivers on its website, just click on the Parents Resources button for kindergarten readiness. Below are additional tips from FTF to help ease your preschooler’s transition to kindergarten: Reading: This can be done by having short reading sessions throughout the day to add up…

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View Gov. Hobbs’ K-12 budget plan & State of the State education priorities

Updated 1/13/23: Gov. Katie Hobbs’ Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget proposal released today would raise state per-pupil funding from $7,999 to $8,250. The Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting staff members shared an economic forecast along with key details of Gov. Hobb’s budget plan during a press conference today. Trey Nilles, a budget analyst with the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, provided a breakdown of the K-12 education budget proposal by Gov. Hobbs and that begins at the 10:54 mark right after the economic forecast and plans to add to the state’s rainy day fund. “The fiscal year 2024 Executive Budget recognizes the needs of Arizona’s public schools, provides a framework for achieving critical goals, and supports the implementation of programs and measures designed to ensure Arizona’s students are prepared for the future,” Nilles said. Video from Office of the Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs: Executive Budget Fiscal Year 2024 Gov. Hobbs’ executive budget proposal also includes: $1.5 billion savings for taxpayers over 10 years by repealing Empowerment Scholarship Accounts  $332.2 million deposit in Building Renewal Grant funding to address crumbling and inadequate school infrastructure $198.6 million to retain critical education staff, increase the Base Support Level for schools by 3.04 percent $172.7 million in new school construction for three schools already in progress, construction of nine new schools, as well as…

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Arizona lawmakers must stop holding school funding hostage. Now

Rather than staying laser-focused on academics, superintendents, principals and teachers across Arizona are distracted by the potential scenario of financial doom and having to prepare cuts of about 16% to their budgets – or more than $1 billion.   Cuts that would mean teacher layoffs, reduced instructional time and reduced services. Some small rural districts are contemplating whether they will shut down altogether.  All of this is occurring while the money sits available, but unable to be used.  That’s right. And here’s why.  Lawmakers can avoid this budget catastrophe Last year, the Legislature passed a budget that included the $1 billion in education funding that Gov. Doug Ducey said will make “major improvements to Arizona’s K-12 education system.” All that’s needed is for both chambers to approve a change to the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL), a constitutional amendment that caps education spending at a level below what legislators voted for last year.  At a time when Arizonans say that education is their number one concern, school districts face a financial catastrophe that could be avoided by action in the Legislature.  Leaders in the Legislature have had three weeks to explain how they would lift the spending limit. Their failure so far to do so is now forcing school districts to think about how they cut the budgets that were developed last year…

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What’s in the Governor’s Proposed FY24 Budget?

Governor Hobbs included a number of investments for K-12 and higher education in her proposed budget for the next fiscal year (FY24). We’re thrilled about the proposed investments in the Governor’s budget to expand the Arizona Promise Program and to create a new scholarship for Dreamers. The proposed investment in dual enrollment will provide a stronger on-ramp for students to pursue postsecondary education. Investments like these will be transformational to change our students’ lives and the future of our state. The additional investments in K-12 funding are encouraging. To fully realize these future investments for next year and for this year, the legislature must allow schools to exceed the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (FY23 and FY24) and propose a long-term fix so that the AEL is not a barrier to schools being able to spend the funds they currently have each year. Budget Proposal Highlights: $40 million to expand the Arizona Promise scholarship program$40 million to create the Promise for Dreamers scholarship program$20.5 million for dual enrollment$14 million for rural community colleges$15 million for the Arizona Teachers Academy, which includes funding for students, teachers and schools$46 million as a continued investment in the ABOR New Economy Initiative$10.3 million as a continued investment in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal’s STEM programs$198.6 million in K-12 base level support fundingRepeals the mass expansion of Empowerment…

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State-by-state teacher shortages (and what they’re doing about it)

(NewsNation) — Recruiting veterans and first responders. Offering $60,000 starting salaries. Providing student loan forgiveness. Helping with mortgages. Every state in the country is coming up with solutions to combat the teacher shortage. Across the country, there are 36,000 teacher vacancies, from kindergarten through high school, and another 163,000 teachers aren’t qualified for their jobs, according to data collected by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University. The shortage is so impactful, some schools have resorted to untraditional concepts such as switching to four-day school weeks. Curious about what your state is doing to solve its teacher shortage? Wondering if you may have the opportunity to become a teacher because of state reforms? Below is a list of the teacher shortages in every state, what the state is doing about them, and whether that state will accept an out-of-state teaching license. It’s important to note some data may be incomplete. While some states track teacher vacancies, many do not require their school districts to report shortages, or do not have real-time or year-over-year data for comparison.   Alabama The Alabama Teacher Shortage Task Force found in 2019 that 30% of all classrooms are being taught by educators teaching out of their field. The state had more than 1,700 high school teachers with emergency certificates. Teachers in Alabama are paid 72% of what college graduates in other professions…

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Salazar played a pivotal role in the formation of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leadership Council, which aims to create an inclusive workplace, foster an understanding of DEI throughout the organization, build a diverse worker pipeline and support efforts to address health disparities. Under Salazar’s leadership, the insurer also formed the Foundation for Community Health Advancement focusing on some of the state’s most critical health issues. Salazar has served on the boards of Teach for America, Education Forward Arizona, Chicanos Por La Causa, and the Arizona Hispanic Women’s Corp., along with mentoring through the Valleywise Health Foundation Emerging Leaders program and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Advance Program. Source:


The Top 5 Things You Need to Know about What’s Next for Prop 308

Now that Arizona voters have passed Proposition 308, Dreamers and undocumented students can access in-state tuition at Arizona public universities and community colleges. Prop 308 ensures that any student who attended an Arizona high school for two years (public, private or homeschool) and who graduated (with a diploma or GED) qualifies for in-state tuition at one of these institutions. The passage of Prop 308 will make going to college more possible for thousands of Arizona students and will help the state move closer to meeting our Achieve60AZ education attainment goal. As Prop 308 is implemented, there are a number of key things to know, including who is eligible, when students can begin accessing in-state tuition, what other aid they are able to access and what barriers remain for DACA and undocumented students to afford their postsecondary education. Here’s what you need to know about Prop 308’s implementation: 1. DACA and undocumented students can begin accessing in-state tuition now. Prop 308 became effective on Dec. 5 when the official election canvas was completed. In-state tuition rates can be accessed for any classes at the community colleges starting after that date or for the universities starting in the Spring 2023 semester. Recently the Arizona Board of Regents and Maricopa Community Colleges have published information about eligibility for DACA and undocumented students to…

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Letters to the Editor: Invest in Education

Editor: As the election season addresses the issues that divide us, all Arizonans should encourage our elected candidates to focus on what unites us: education.  A recent statewide poll conducted by Education Forward Arizona, a nonpartisan education nonprofit, found that the vast majority of Arizonans want more funding for schools and to increase teacher pay. Meanwhile, we don’t hear politicians communicating how they will invest in and improve our children’s education. This must change. Here in the Southwest Valley, as in many other areas of Maricopa County, we are experiencing growth. With this comes additional responsibilities to more families with students and continued responsibilities for longtime residents. We need additional learning space and a greater need for teachers and the variety of staff who support learning for our children. Looking through the websites for the Agua Fria Union High, Buckeye Union High, Liberty Elementary and Litchfield Elementary school districts, each one mentions recruiting, retaining and training teachers; providing smaller class sizes; continuing extracurricular opportunities for students; school and campus safety; and, for the high schools, continuing and increasing workforce development. Our community is clear about what we want our state to do: put a qualified teacher in every classroom, give teachers a raise, invest in our schools, and give students more opportunities for career and technical education. It’s high time…

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Tempe preschool program honored for innovation

The Tempe PRE preschool program was recently honored by Education Forward Arizona for innovation in early learning, according to a news release from the city.  Councilmember Randy Keating accepted a North Star Award on the city’s behalf and was joined by staff with the city’s Office of Education, Career & Family Services and the program's education partner, Tempe Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. James Driscoll.  The city launched Tempe PRE in August 2017 and since then, the program has served nearly 1,700 children ages 3 and 4. Tempe PRE currently operates 11 classrooms co-located on seven Tempe Elementary school campuses.  Children attending Tempe PRE have consistently entered kindergarten more prepared for success than their peers who did not attend preschool, according to research by both the Helios Education Foundation and First Things First. Tempe PRE classrooms are part of the statewide Quality First rating system and continue to be rated at quality and high quality standards.  As children experience academic successes, families are also thriving.  69% of our families expressed that access to Tempe PRE improved their families’ financial stability68% said their enrollment allowed a family member to return to work or increase their work hours15% reported they were able to obtain secure housing12% returned to or enrolled in school  Tempe PRE's unique partnership between the city and the school…

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Education Explainer: Arizona’s Teacher Shortage

Arizona’s teachers are the foundation of our education system. Our teachers are the most important factor in our schools that influence student achievement. But for the last seven years, Arizona has been struggling with a teacher shortage. Recent data from the Arizona Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) shows that Arizona’s teacher shortage continues and is worsening. There were over 9,600 teaching positions open for the 2022-23 school year. After one month into the school year, ASPAA showed that almost one-third (27%) of teaching positions remain unfilled. Of the teaching positions that were filled, 42% of them were filled using alternative methods by teachers that did not meet the standard teaching requirements. (Source: ASPAA) This school year has been the hardest year affected by the pandemic. This year, we’ve seen the biggest impact of the teacher shortage with the highest number of job openings (9,672), teaching positions unfilled (2,577), positions filled with alternate teaching requirements (4,029) and the number of vacancies filled by long-term subs (813). Each of these are the highest reported since this data has been collected. (Source: ASPAA) The teacher recruitment and retention crisis is real. How is it impacting Arizona schools? This summer, we convened separate groups of educators and students from across the state to talk about teacher recruitment and retention and how the state can improve student outcomes. We’ve included…

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