PHOENIX – Today, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman delivered her annual “State of Education” address to the Senate Education Committee. Under the shadow of COVID-19 Superintendent Hoffman shared the incredible, unforeseen challenges Arizona’s schools have faced because of the pandemic – but also highlighted the remarkable empathy, kindness, and innovation of our students, teachers and families.
The hardships felt by every Arizonan over the past year, have also deeply impacted our students. Too many of Arizona’s youngest have coped as parents lost a job, struggled to learn over unreliable internet connections, and tragically too many have had to grieve the loss of a loved one to this virus.
We must get this virus under control, so we can fully focus on policies and investments to make our schools stronger. Our schools need predictable, sustainable funding to plan their budgets, to hire and fairly compensate every professional their students need, from reading specialists to school counselors.
Making Arizona’s public schools stronger, also means supporting Arizona families. Over the past year, we have learned just how deeply tied our schools are to families and communities. Saying that, “The truth is that family-centered policies support our schools and benefit all communities,” Superintendent Hoffman called the legislature to pass, bills like HB2015, SB1227, that will address pre-k, classroom size and, common-sense policies like SB 1756 that will provide paid-family leave to build stronger schools and stronger families.
But there is more work for the state to do to support our schools. Without predictable, on-going state funding, many public schools - particularly, small rural schools - will not be able to sustain their operations and provide a full range of services to students and families. “When the state sits on a billion-dollar rainy day fund and projects a two-billion-dollar surplus, there is no excuse to not fully fund every school,” Superintendent Hoffman said, “There has never been a more urgent time to tap into our safety net and provide for Arizonans. Anyone who thinks it’s not raining in Arizona right now needs to check their privilege.”
The pressure on our schools this past year has been immense, but they have risen to the challenge, transitioning to new learning models, and a new reality, with innovation, quick-thinking, and adaptation. Proving, our schools can be the backbone of our state’s recovery from this virus, in fact they must be.
A full transcript of Superintendent Hoffman’s address can be found here.