COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Grassroots advocacy will be the most effective strategy when it comes to finding funding solutions for education in Arizona.
That was the consensus of the attendees who discussed the issue at a breakfast hosted by the Arizona Town Hall at Cochise College in Sierra Vista on Thursday.
"We need to be talking to each other more and we have to have an avenue to allow us to continually talk to each other," said Cochise County School Superintendent Jacqui Clay, one of the event's guest speakers. "We need to do this together because together we are powerful and one voice."
Clay was one of a group of Cochise County leaders who attended the 2017 statewide Arizona Town Hall on funding preK-12 education. Participants then go back to their communities to present their thoughts on the process and to generate discussion and ideas at the local level.
The recommendations and conclusions drawn at the state event are compiled into a report, which is made available to elected officials and the public.
The hope is that state legislators will act upon those suggestions, but Clay believes the answer to improving education and solving funding issues in Cochise County lies with its citizens.
To that end, her office will be forming education steering committees throughout the region.
"One committee does not meet the needs of the demographics of this county. Each area needs its own council, and they should not be made up of mainly educators," she said.
The goal is to have diverse community members come together and look at ways to address the top five issues identified by residents in a recent survey. Those areas are teacher retention, behavioral health and special needs, curriculum/career and technical education/college and career readiness, discipline, and teacher support.
"We need to encourage civic engagement and advocacy," said Clay. "Education is an investment. It's not an expense."
J.D. Rottweiler, Cochise College President, agreed the key to improving education lies with community collaboration.
"We have to recognize the value of education and the funding will come," he said. "We won't change if we don't collectively value education."
The Cochise County School Superintendent's office is working to start steering committees throughout the region and would like to hear from community members interested in joining the conversation.
For more information call (520) 432-8950.