Arizona education improving but seriously challenged

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AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas. 22 Jan. 2018 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction, Diane Douglas. 22 Jan. 2018 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
Board of Education building in downtown Phoenix. 22 Jan. 2018 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Board of Education building in downtown Phoenix. 22 Jan. 2018 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas told state lawmakers Monday that education in our state is improving but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Douglas delivered her state of education address to the House Committee on Education.

Douglas said Arizona is seeing a modest increase in test scores, a result that she attributes to the daily hard work of parents and teachers.

[RAW VIDEO: Arizona superintendent says education improving but work to be done]

She also praised the move of Arizona having replaced the Common Core standards with its own Arizona Standards for Math and English.

“It is good to see Arizonans back in charge of the standards for Arizona students,” Douglas said.

In the past year the State Board of Education has transitioned from an antiquated student data system to an award-winning system called AzEDS. Douglas told lawmakers the execution was the most efficient annual rollover in the state’s history.

After outlining some of the positives, Douglas then focused in on the many challenges the state must address.

“We have a teacher shortage,” she said. Douglas quoted a recent survey as showing that more than 20 percent of teacher positions remained vacant four months into the school year.

[RELATED: Report: Arizona teacher shortage worsens]

“While teacher pay is not the only factor leading to a shortage; it is a big factor. Arizona's teacher pay is among the lowest in the country. Arizona high school teachers are ranked 48th in the country for teacher pay, while elementary school teachers rank dead last,” said Douglas.

[RELATED: Arizona teachers demand pay raises, better working conditions amid shortages]

An education funding plan passed by Arizona voters in 2000, Prop 301, is set to expire in two years. Douglas said she has proposed a plan to renew Prop 301 on a permanent basis and provide an increase in teacher salaries along with the much-needed funding for school capital expenditures.

Another major challenge Douglas expressed to lawmakers is the need to replace an archaic IT system that handles school finance.

“If it would take Microsoft $10 million just to look at it, we desperately need to spend the roughly $9 million for a new system to pay schools and protect student data from getting into the wrong person’s hands,” said Douglas.  

The superintendent expressed her desire to work with lawmakers, the Governor, teachers and educators to make Arizona’s education system better every day. 

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