Respectfully Submitted by Michelle Parker-Rock M.Ed.
ARA Advocacy Chairperson
National Literacy Consultant
 Author of Books for Young Readers


Advocacy Update January 2018: Save Our Schools

Click Image


Advocacy Update August 2017: Save Our Schools

Save Our Schools is a statewide, grassroots, volunteer group of concerned Arizona citizens who wants our state to prioritize public education. SOS is comprised of are with kids at public schools, charter schools, and private schools. They are Republicans, Democrats, and independents. They support school choice, but we do not support the expansion of ESAs, commonly known as vouchers, that take even more money away from public education when our schools are already in crisis. They share the belief that strong schools for all our kids will create a strong state and a more prosperous Arizona. They will put SB1431 voucher expansion on the ballot, and it will be the first step toward restoring the Arizona educational system.

Arizona has a classroom crisis. 
Arizona ranks dead last in the nation for teacher pay. (Source: Arizona Republic)
Our state ranks 48th for public school funding and in student achievement outcomes. (Source: KTAR)
Arizona is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage. Currently, more than 2,200 classrooms across the state without a teacher. (Source: Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association survey, September 2016)
Low teacher pay remains central to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. (Source: Arizona Education News) Teachers are leaving the state for better opportunities elsewhere. (Source: 12 News Phoenix)
Vouchers pull millions from our already underfunded public schools, worsening the classroom crisis. (Source: Arizona Republic)

For more information: http://sosarizona.org/pages/98


Arizona Reading Association Advocacy and Legislation Spring 2017 Updates

Arizona Governor’s Office of Education Invest in Arizona Budget Plan.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s 2018-2019 Executive Budget Plan for education demonstrates some investment in the state’s public schools but it is also rife with revenue constraints that do not allow for significant long-term support. The problem rests with the continued expansion of corporate tax breaks, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), and student tuition organizations that are diverting funds from Arizona classrooms, students, and teachers. In addition, the state is also facing ever-growing concerns about retaining and attracting talented and skilled educators to work in its public education system. To address the teacher shortage issue, the Governor’s budget increases Arizona teacher salaries by 2% over the next 5 years and a one-time $1,000 signing bonus for new teachers in districts or charters in which more than 60% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The $6.4 million recommended appropriation for 2018 would result in signing bonuses for the 6,400 new teachers during the 2017-2018 school year. This appropriation would expand the Math, Science, and Special Education Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program in order to attract qualified teachers to rural and remote communities.  Unfortunately, the 2% salary increase over the next five years is a mere drop in the bucket and not a powerful incentive for attracting and retaining excellent educators in a state where teacher salaries are already among the lowest in the nation. In addition, the one-time $1,000.00 signing bonus also falls short.


Budget Overview

$163 million for K-12 schools above and beyond inflation for 2018.
$68 million for a permanent 2% teacher pay raise over two years.
$37.6 million for results-based funding at public schools, half of which is earmarked for teacher raises.
$20 million over two years for early literacy programs, including full-day kindergarten.
$80 million for the construction and maintenance of school facilities.
$250,000 to expand principal leadership training.
$3 million in matching funds for rural school access to internet connectivity/ broadband.
$250,000 to expand teacher loan forgiveness.
$1 million for high school graduates to complete JTED programs.
$2.6 million additional funds for small and isolated rural schools.
$27 million in ongoing capital investments for universities that will enable over $1 billion in bonding. In return for the financing, the three universities, ASU, UA, and NAU have been tasked with creating the Arizona Teachers Academy which is scheduled to begin in Fall 2017.
$7.3 million for IT upgrades to more efficiently make payments to schools at the Department of Education generating approximately $100 million in total funds.

Results Based Funding

Governor Ducey’s plan for Results Based Funding increases the impact of high stakes testing and appropriates $38 million in 2018 to reward schools that are already scoring in the top 10% of AZ Merit. Low-income schools where 60% or more of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch and achieve AZ Merit scores in the top 10% will receive $400 per pupil. High-income schools where less than 60% of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch and achieve AZ Merit scores in the top 10% will receive $225 per pupil. Low-income schools will not compete with high-income schools for the funding.

School districts that have declines in enrollment that are greater than 2% will receive one-time reconciliation funding in the amount of $20 million.

Achieve AZ and Arizona Education Progress Meter Initiatives

$10,000,000 ($1,244 per pupil) will be used to expand full-day kindergarten for public schools where more than 90% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Expansion outside of the 90% free and reduce lunch threshold is not planned.
$1,000,000 in Joint Technical Education Districts Completion Grants will help high school graduates finish the program they started but did not fully complete.
$114,700 will be used to expand the Commission for Postsecondary Education’s FAFSA Completion Initiative to get more first generation college bound students to a postsecondary institution by completing the FAFSA form to qualify for financial aid.   
$5,000,000 will go to fund a state match that will be combined with federal E-Rate dollars to expand broadband to rural districts and charters.  
$800,000 is set to increase the number of monthly home visits for the birth through three year old program at the AZ School for the Deaf and Blind.
$1.1 million will fund 10.5 full time positions at the AZ Department of Education to maintain a continuous review all of Arizona’s K-12 Academic Standards.
$250,000 in matching funds will go to create 50 seats to train school leaders in effective management strategies. 
$200,000 in matching funds will be used to advance statewide computer science initiative through the development of academic standards for K-12 computer science and professional development for teachers. 
$100,000 in matching funds will expand Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates, a school-based dropout intervention program for youth at-risk. 
$17,000,000 will go to the School Facilities Board to meet the increased volume of building renewal applications and funding demands.  

In the world of Higher Education there is a $1 Billion Bonding Package for ASU, UA and NAU to enable the state’s universities to invest in research, development and capital. In return for the financing package, the universities are tasked with creating the Arizona Teachers Academy and plan professional support for teachers, including new models for high-demand disciplines such as STEM. It is expected that the work of the Academy will help establish stronger partnerships between the universities and school systems and build a bridge for teacher employment. The universities are expected to graduate students from the Arizona Teachers Academy debt free. For every year of free tuition received, a student would commit to teaching in an Arizona school for a year. 

The ESA Law

The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program gives Arizona taxpayer money to parents who can then spend it on private schools or other educational expenses. Initially, ESA provided funding to special needs students, but in past years the ESA Program has since expanded and now includes the following:

students attending D and F schools or school districts
foster care children
children in military families
siblings of current or previous ESA recipients
school tuition organization recipients who are eligible for the Arizona Scholarships for Pupils with Disabilities Program
students residing on an Indian Reservation
children of legally blind or hard of hearing parents/guardians

The ESA has been challenged as being illegal with regard to Article IX, §10 of the Arizona’s Constitution which prohibits public money from being used to aid any church, private or sectarian school, or any public service corporation.  However, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled  that the ESA program was not in violation because the funding was awarded to parents who could then spend it on a variety of educational options of their choosing.

Arizona Senate Bill 1431 and Arizona House H.B. 2394 now expands eligibility in the ESA program to any child in an Arizona public school as follows:

2017-2018 - children in kindergarten (4-7 years of age), grades 1, 6 and 9
2018-2019 - children in grades 2, 7 and 10
2019-2020 - children in grades 3, 8 and 11

Any given student will receive ninety percent of the base support level and additional assistance they would have received as a student in the school he or she attended. If a student is qualified as low income, he or she is eligible to receive one hundred percent of the base support level and addition assistance.

There are concerns that the expansion of the ESA program could dismantle public education by diverting public resources from an already under-funded public school system to subsidize families of means who might otherwise afford private school tuition without taxpayer aid. In addition, low income families living in rural areas won’t have equal access to choice, and children with disabilities or other challenges may not have the same privileges of acceptance by private institutions that can determine who attends and who does not. Lastly, the are no clear standards to protect against the misuse of public funds and there are no accountability standards to ensure the quality of education any child might receive after leaving the public school system.

For More Information

Office of the Governor Doug Ducey - https://azgovernor.gov
Arizona State Legislature - http://www.azleg.gov
U.S. Department of Education - https://www.ed.gov



​Advocacy Update: New 2016 Arizona ELA Standards 

Adopted December 2016

For more information go to:



Advocacy Update: ESSA, Learn, Proposition 123

July 2016


In December 2015 the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama. ESSA replaced the former No Child Left Behind initiative (NCLB), a piece of legislation that was destined for failure because it relied on a national testing regime that held all state school systems accountable for progress without considering the everyday demands of classroom teaching, the diverse needs of students, and the overwhelming challenges placed on educators to overcome the realities of large class sizes, children living in poverty, and the general inequities of educational opportunity and funding.  As a result, many states found it necessary to apply for waivers after failing to meet their Adequate Yearly Progress goals. The signing of the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill (ESEA), which became known as ESSA 2015, was an historic act that reflected change and received the support of huge majorities in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

Briefly, the current ESSA is flexible in that it looks to the states to take responsibility for repairing underperforming schools and lessening the achievement gap. It also allows states to be more eclectic in the way students are assessed.  This factor is critical and deserves close attention because educators must take an active role in how this element is shaped and implemented. In addition, ESSA articulates three categories for mandated intervention with regard to schools whose test scores are in the bottom 5%, high schools whose graduation rates are 67% or lower, and schools who are consistently under performing. However, ESSA does give states the authority to determine the nature of the interventions, making this is another area where educators can play a necessary professional role.


In addition, it is important to mention Literacy Education for All-Results for the Nation, also known as the LEARN Act, a provision of ESSA that provides federal support and authorizes $2.35 billion for states developing comprehensive high quality literacy instruction in reading and writing from birth through grade 12.  It is implored that all Arizona stakeholders participate in the process to ensure that the state legislature applies for LEARN funding and that the money be used to make literacy education appropriate and accessible to all students.

To develop a deeper understanding about ESSA and the Learn Act, go to:


Arizona Proposition 123

As for Arizona Proposition 123, it should be noted that on June 30, 2016, the State Board of Investment approved a payment of more than $190 million to schools.  However, the money and the election that provided for the funding remains controversial. Legal challenges may still be forthcoming. Please continue to watch for ongoing developments.

Lastly, the first amendment act empowers all citizens to advocate for literacy. Together we can help identify problems and propose solutions for reducing the burden of testing, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring a well-rounded education for all.  Heed the call of the International Literacy
Association (ILA) and the Arizona Reading Association to join the conversation and take steps to become a champion.


The International Literacy Association Calls for a Strong Literacy Commitment to the ESEA Reauthorization Bill



What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is the act of supporting and arguing in favor of something— such as a cause, an idea, or a policy. Literacy Advocacy focuses on educating and organizing others for the purpose of actively affecting policy and legislation for literacy.

Why is it Important to Be an Advocate for Literacy Education?

As literacy educators and members of the Arizona Reading Association, we have the knowledge and experience to help define and shape what is needed to ensure thehighest quality literacy education for the children and youth in our state. Therefore, we have the important job of informing Congress, the State Legislature, the Governor, local administrators, the media, and others about the best ways to provide our students with fluid, meaningful, and comprehensive literacy education. It is also our responsibility to influence state and national public policy decisions that affect our school districts, our professional educators, and the communities that we serve.

Does Advocacy Have an Impact?

Yes, advocacy has an impact. As professionals, we are on the front lines of education. Our experiences and background knowledge have value. We are the eyes and ears of how state and federal policies influence literacy. We are also voters. Members of the Arizona State Legislature and the United States Congress are eager to hear from constituents. As advocates, it is our duty to keep elected officials enlightened and incumbent upon us to hold them accountable for the decisions they make.

Does the Arizona Reading Association Have an Advocacy Network?

Yes, the Arizona Reading Association has a growing advocacy network. To join the Arizona Reading Association's Advocacy and Legislative Network, contact the ARA Advocacy Chairperson Michelle Parker-Rock M.S.Ed. at AdvocacyandSocialMedia@arizonareadingassociation.org. You can also connect with the Arizona Reading Association through social media.
Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaReadingAssociation Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/azreadingassoc
Connect with us on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7018825/profile And visit our Website: www.ArizonaReadingAssociation.org

                                                             Advocacy and the International Literacy Association
The International Literacy Association describes itself as a global advocacy organization with literacy as its cause, its passion, and its reason for being. The organization’s mission is to empower educators, inspire students, and encourage leaders with the resources they need to make literacy accessible for all. ILA also speaks out for funding and policies that support the literacy needs of school systems, teachers, and students around the world. In addition, ILA advocates for teachers’ and students’ needs and sets the standards for how literacy is taught, assessed, and evaluated.

ILA’s Government Relations Committee is charged with conducting numerous activities related to advocacy around U.S. legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. ILA’s Legislative Action Team is a grassroots network of ILA members across the country that volunteer assistance in the advocacy of legislation that promotes high quality reading instruction.

In addition the current ILA President Jill Lewis-Spector said that “IRA (ILA) must advocate for teachers around the world and against restrictive educational policies, improve public perception of teachers, and work with all our members to ensure our voices are among those that effectively influence what happens in schools.”

As a state Council of ILA, the Arizona Reading Association realizes the importance of keeping its members connected to the hot topics and legislative issues related to literacy and education matters. Therefore, for the past several years we’ve been ramping up our efforts to find effective ways to acquire and share relevant information to keep members in the know and stir them to action.

As the champion of a global community of literacy advocates, the International Literacy Association empowers educators, inspires students, and encourages leaders—bringing them together with the practical resources they need to help spread the transformative power of literacy to every corner of the world. The Arizona Reading Association strives to do the same by connecting with like-minded people and organizations in Arizona and across the nation who have information to share about the issues that relate to our mission.