Valley mayors call for reforming state's education system

November 26, 2012

Several Valley mayors say they’re best suited to bring together lawmakers, community and education leaders to improve the state’s education system. Their first attempt is to create an education coalition made of mayors from across the state.

Mayor Scott Smith at podiumMesa Mayor Scott Smith discussing education coalition (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)

NADINE ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: The Mayors say the coalition is the result of the failed attempt to pass Proposition 204, the permanent one-cent education sale tax. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith are leading the effort. The mayors who had opposing views on Prop 204 say they want to get all lawmakers, education leaders and community groups to begin engaging one another to resolve the schools’ problems, from funding to student success. Surrounded by business leaders, Mayor Smith said the goal is to make everyone accountable.

SCOTT SMITH: There’s no doubt everybody who has a vested interest and who has a role in the solution needs to be part of this discussion. The question is at what point. And we’re going to invite all comers. We recognize that real reform can’t happen without the teachers’ being involved, the schools boards, the local leaders, and absolutely the legislature.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Mayor Smith says the coalition will start meeting in the next few weeks.

SMITH: I think the one thing that we can have is hopefully we can bring this out of the partisan political arena into the problem solving arena. And if we can do that and then allow the legislature a place where we can maybe throw around some of these ideas with all parties being involved, we’re more than welcome to facilitate that.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ:  Denise Birdwell is the superintendent of the Higley Unified School District in Gilbert. She says it’s a plus when the schools gets the support of an influential group. But, she says, a coalition of mayors will have limited influence – just like any other advocacy group.

DENISE BIRDWELL: I hope that this voice, the legislature would listen to. But, when it actually comes down to setting policies it’s the legislators, it’s the educational board that sets the direction of the school districts.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Despite being pressured by the media, neither Mayor Smith nor Mayor Stanton were able to give any details on what the group will address first, specific outlines for possible results, or what other leaders will be part of the group.

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