The Tucson Hispanic Chamber is a proud strategic partner in A for Arizona because we want to expand high-quality school options for Hispanic students in southern Arizona. In addition to our A for Arizona partnership, we are involved in United Way’s “Cradle to Career” program and have an active Latino Education Committee. Through all of these efforts, we are working to ensure more Hispanic students receive a great education, graduate from high school, and go on to pursue college degrees and/or workforce credentials.

Last week we hosted our “State of Hispanic Education” event, featuring A for Arizona’s Lisa Graham Keegan, Prop 123 Campaign Manager J.P. Twist, and Pima Community College’s Dr. Dolores Duran-Cerda. We were thrilled to see those in attendance representing district, charter, and private schools as well as business leaders, demonstrating how our entire southern Arizona community is rallying together to advance quality options in our region.

Our outstanding panel of speakers highlighted how Arizona is making great strides in education, and is consistently ranked in the top states for education gains in the country. They also noted that while we’re rapidly improving, we still do not have excellence across the board. What we’re seeing instead, especially in southern Arizona, are pockets of excellence. Many of those are in predominantly low-income, Hispanic communities. Places like Gadsden, Nogales, Rio Rico, Yuma, and new pockets across Tucson. This tells us it can be done, and that we should double down on these models of success to recreate them in other areas.

As it stands, it’s our Hispanic and low-income communities that are left with fewer high quality educational opportunities. Dr. Duran-Cerda shared that between 2010 and 2014 the number of students who received free or reduced lunch increased dramatically by 12 percent. She and the rest of the panel agreed that poverty should not dictate the level of student success. They went on to discuss proactive steps to drive achievement of lower socioeconomic students, such as increasing participation in proven successful programs and refocusing state-level funding streams to expand them. This could include no cost/low cost classes for ACT/SAT test prep and greater access to PSAT, as well as drastically increasing opportunity for students to access AP classes led by trained teachers. Ideas like these, and more, can be found in the Arizona Minority Student Progress Report 2016.

At the Tucson Hispanic Chamber, we believe the future of education in Arizona is bright because of the exceptional work taking place in predominately low-income and Hispanic communities here in southern Arizona. Steps like passing Proposition 123 will set the table for further discussion about how and where to apply our precious education resources. Should it be with schools that continuously fail and make no efforts to change, or those that are achieving success in the face of challenging socioeconomic conditions? To us the answer is obvious.