The Right Choice for Parents, Teachers and Students
The Right Choice for Teachers!
I have the highest regard and respect for the education profession; it’s truly a missionary calling. American historian Henry Adams wrote: “A teacher affects eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops.” Great teachers guide, encourage and inspire. They help students overcome challenges, discover their passions, and build self-esteem. Put simply, great teachers change lives! They know that their students’ success is their success.
Our state’s prosperity relies on finding and retaining excellent teachers, our most important financial investment as a state. Presently, we’re dead last in teacher pay. If we want to secure our state's future, we have to do better. Our teachers deserve a meaningful compensation increase reflecting the importance of the teaching profession.
I propose a modest increase of 4% per year for five years which would increase the average annual salary of Arizona teachers to approximately $40-50,000 per year depending on the individual teacher's qualifications, experience and the school district or charter school where they teach. I would pay for the increase in teacher compensation by budget reforms and capital funding initiatives (see following section) and by urging the State Legislature and school districts to prioritize and utilize "new money" (increased funding appropriated by the State Legislature) for teacher compensation and classroom purposes.
I strongly support extending Prop 301, the 0.6-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2000, with the stipulation that:
Otherwise, the chronic teacher shortage will continue as more qualified teachers leave the profession, adding to the thousands of current teaching vacancies in schools across the state.
According to Arizona’s nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee, almost half of Arizona’s roughly $10 billion General Fund goes towards K-12 education, yet the Arizona Auditor General found that in 2015 only 53.5 cents of every education dollar went to the classroom for direct instruction. That’s 7.3 cents below the national average and the lowest level of classroom spending in any of the 16 years the state has been keeping track. Commensurate with the increase in teacher compensation, we should strive to reach the national average of sending at least 60 cents of every dollar to the classroom for instructional purposes over the next four years.
Along with the extension of Prop 301, we must take a hard look at how we fund our public schools through income, property and sales taxes. I will spearhead efforts to reimagine our school finance system to create a more equitable system and level playing field between district and charter schools; metropolitan and rural schools; and state-aid school districts with lower property values and non-state aid districts with higher property values.
We can’t have great schools without great school leaders. I strongly support Governor Ducey’s proposal to develop school leadership training programs based on the nexus between strong principals and student success, and his proposal for an Arizona Teachers’ Academy to address the teacher shortage. In partnership with our world-class university system, community colleges statewide, and Arizona’s leading education philanthropies, I will focus the efforts and resources of ADE on what matters most: great teachers and leaders for every student and school! We will build a talent system – and education workforce – that gives every student a great teacher every year!
Frank Riggs on Education in Arizona
The Right Choice for Parents!
I believe in the fundamental and absolute right of parents to choose and direct their child’s education. They, not the government, are the decision-makers of how and where their child learns. After all, the parent is the first, most important – and lifelong – teacher of their own child.
The education paradigm must be changed from “common,” one-size-fits-all standards and a high-stakes test by which we rank and judge every school, to a focus on classroom teaching and learning and the partnership between the parent, teacher and student. Mandatory standards imposed on every K-12 public school - district and charter - make school choice meaningless. We need choice in curriculum, too.
The idea that a single set of standards can suit every student and school is impracticable. Common sense (and centuries of parenting and schooling!) tell us that schoolchildren learn skills and concepts on very different paths and timetables. Furthermore, one size cannot possibly fit the needs of the more difficult-to-educate segments of the student population like low-income students, students with learning disabilities and special needs, English Language Learners (immigrant and refugee students with little or no English proficiency), and Native American students who have been historically neglected.
Teaching and learning must be personalized, to the extent possible, to meet the needs, aptitude and learning pace of the individual student. Teachers need more time to focus on the needs of children and must be free to creatively manage their classrooms and adapt to the needs of their students.
I support a “menu” of standards and nationally norm-referenced assessments, from which schools can choose to best serve their respective and unique student populations. There is just no way that one instructional methodology or one set of highly prescriptive standards can co-exist with Arizona’s robust system of school choice and diverse educational models that include district schools, charter schools, STEM schools, language immersion schools, vocational/CTE programs, dual enrollment programs, blended learning programs (in-person and online education), Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate (or some combination of these models as determined by the governing board of a school district or charter school)!
I believe that Common Core should be strictly voluntary, not a federal or state mandate. The standards had not been vetted or field-tested and therefore had no track record, and were never subjected to legislative oversight, when they were adopted in Arizona in exchange for a one-time federal grant.
The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), informally called the Nation’s Report Card, periodically tests a representative sampling of students in in grades 4, 8 and 12 in reading, math and writing. This suffices for comparing our progress as a state against other states and national norms.
As Larry Arnn, an educator and president of Hillsdale College, says, "...the job of teachers, like the job of parents, is to help children learn, not to make them or cause them to learn. Good schools are built around this fact. It also means that authority over the schools can best be exercised by those who are closest to the students.”
Better Facilities for Our Kids!
I will also address school building maintenance and “soft capital” needs. According to the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, there is a $2 billion shortfall in funding for the capital expenses of Arizona public schools. An investigation by The Arizona Republic newspaper found that almost three out of 10 school buses failed mandatory state inspections last year due to a “major defect.”
We must ensure that every Arizona child attends a safe, modern and well-equipped school that meets all building code standards. And, if they’re transported to and from school in a school bus or van, the vehicle must meet all safety standards. In order for a school to function as an effective learning community, school facilities must be well-maintained.
The Arizona state budget (General Fund) should be separated into an operational budget for recurring expenditures for K-12 education, such as per-pupil funding, and a capital improvements budget that reflects one-time and long-term expenditures for school infrastructure and equipment. The Arizona State Constitution should be amended and “modernized” to allow state government to incur a prudent level of indebtedness based on the credit rating of state government.
While I believe a pay-as-you-go system is appropriate for recurring operational costs of state government, using low-cost bond financing and private capital for long-term infrastructure projects, including school facilities and equipment -- which have a useful life of several decades and will be used by generations of schoolchildren -- is a sound investment strategy that would give local school districts and charter schools the additional capital funding they badly need for textbooks, technology, bus repairs and building maintenance.
I designed the federal credit enhancement program for charter school facilities that has used roughly $300 million in federal funding to leverage approximately $1.2 billion in lease, loan and bond financing commitments for charter schools in Arizona and nationwide. The program has become a model public-private partnership and the blueprint for state-based credit enhancement programs, including the Public School Credit Enhancement Program that Gov. Ducey recently announced as part of his signature plan to reduce the wait lists at high-performing schools. The program will reduce the cost of facilities for qualifying public schools, both district and charter, which will free-up funds that can go into the classroom.
I also support Governor Ducey’s call for $600 million in federal funding for Arizona infrastructure projects to be included in President Trump’s proposal to Congress for $1 trillion in new infrastructure investment. The Governor's list of projects addresses numerous repair and deferred maintenance projects in Arizona schools including $38.5 million to eliminate lead in the drinking water of the state’s schools by replacing old pipes; $8.4 million to replace rubber flooring emitting mercury vapor; and $17.5 million to upgrade antiquated ventilation units.
“I think the purpose of education is for a person to discover what they’re talented at, to discover who they are, to grow as an individual into someone who can think, to create someone who is articulate, someone who can be a lifelong learner, someone who can be successful in life, and that means communicating. It means learning, it means passion, being passionate about what you’ve decided to do. The current policymakers, unfortunately, see education as training people to acquire the minimum level of skills that are required to work in a technical workplace.”
– Paul Horton, Veteran History Teacher, University of Chicago Lab Schools
"Frank Riggs believes each student has special talents and knows that one-size-fits-all standards make school choice an empty platitude. He understands authentic student achievement and the best teaching don't come from political mandates but through the "triad" of parent, teacher and principal, the only people who can affect what happens in the classroom. Frank will strengthen that critical partnership and respect the rights of parents."
– Olga Tarro, Elementary School Parent Member, State Board of Education’s Arizona Standards Development Committee & Member of Mommy Lobby AZ
"We must inject essential parent power and competition into education while giving educators the professional respect they deserve and the autonomy they crave. Only educational freedom -- through the partnership of parent, teacher and principal working together -- can prepare all students to reach their full potential!"
– Frank Riggs