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Arizona Foundation Commits $15M to Rural Schools After 'Alarming' Survey Results

A survey of educators in 13 rural Arizona counties revealed a "desperate situation" that has led one nonprofit to intervene with a new $15 million Rural and Remote Initiative that will be implemented during the next three years.

The Science Foundation Arizona has invested more than $40 million in education since 2007, but it has mostly been in the state's urban areas. One donor was interested in looking closer at the state's smaller counties, so the nonprofit surveyed every public school superintendent, principal, and teacher in 13 rural and remote counties.

Of the 31 percent who responded, 33 percent of science teachers said they hadn't had any science professional development during the past three years. Eleven percent of math teachers said the same. One teacher wrote that it's difficult to teach science in a class without sinks and only four electrical outlets. Another said the classroom had no science lab equipment.

"This report tells the story of dedicated professionals who are desperate for the tools necessary to improve their skills, increase student learning at all levels, and implement the increased rigor of Arizona's Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards," according to the report, "Rural Educators Speak."

Educators said the top three items that would be most helpful to implementing the Common Core State Standards are money for supplies, equipment, and professional development. The foundation plans to address those needs by:

  • hiring a full-time staff member to help educators teach science and math in Apache and Navajo counties;

  • giving every full-time K-12 teacher in two counties gift cards for supplies in exchange for the principal providing weekly planning time for the implementation fo the common-core standards;

  • allowing schools to submit Requests for Proposals for up to $10,000 in equipment to help improve achievement in science and math; and

  • issuing Requests for Proposals to fund teacher professional development and after-school needs.

"When reading these results and teacher comments, outrage and sadness are appropriate reactions to how we're shortchanging future generations," said Margaret Mullen, the foundation's chief operation officer, in a news release.

The state has seen an 18.9 percent drop in K-12 public education funding during the past five years, according to one report in The Arizona Republic.

The foundation was formed in 2006 by three statewide CEO business organizations with the goal of strengthening and diversifying the state's economy. Foundation officials hope their investment in rural schools will spur others to to do the same.

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