Today I had the privilege to present the mission and vision of A for Arizona before the House Committee on Rural and Economic Development. This was a tremendous opportunity to spread the word about A for Arizona’s work and to highlight the very real connection between quality schools and economic development.

I shared with committee members the powerful economic effects quality schools can have on individual students, families, their communities, and our state as a whole. A compelling body of research links primary and secondary education to economic development and growth. This is everything from increasing workers’ average earnings and productivity, to reducing social problems such as drug abuse, crime, welfare dependency, and lack of access to medical care, all of which can weigh heavily on the economy.

And as it turns out, researchers are finding school quality matters more than school quantity in terms of educational attainment. For example, individuals attending a high-quality school have higher earnings than someone with the same amount of education but at a lower-quality school.

I also talked to the Committee about quality teachers and their link to students’ higher lifetime earnings, higher-ranked college attendance, and even increased retirement savings. Simply put, studies conclude that good teachers create substantial economic value.

Looking to Arizona specifically, I shared some of what we’ve seen traveling the state visiting with ‘A’ schools, particularly those in low-income areas. Schools like those in the South Phoenix Golden Corridor, a pocket of seven highly-performing district and charter schools located in a lower income area of metro-Phoenix. Through an environment of school choice, an investment in student success, and involvement from local businesses, this community saw real transformation. They now enjoy less crime, community beautification, a thriving culture, and property values rising at one of the highest rates in the metro area. There are also rural examples like Mary C O’Brien Elementary School, Nogales Unified, Congress Elementary District, and Tonto Basin Elementary District; all beating the odds by achieving exceptional results for their students.

Today, I challenged the committee members to become the first legislative district in the state with all ‘A’ schools. I believe our elected leaders share our desire to see Arizona become a state where ‘A’-grade school performance is an expectation, rather than a possibility. And, for Arizona to serve as a national model for developing education solutions based on investing in and expanding excellence. Beyond a happy report card, these results are achieving for Arizona a stronger and healthier economic outlook.

To listen to my complete testimony, visit http://azleg.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=26.