Education is the great equalizer. IF we provide an equal access to quality.

We’ve arrived at the time of year when budget priorities are being decided. At the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and A for Arizona, our highest priority is to provide access to quality education for the most students in the shortest amount of time. So we believe the most urgent answer is to invest in quality.

Arizona possesses a rich public education environment, full of innovative schools that deliver quality in many different ways. Models of excellence are found in charter schools, traditional district schools, and district magnet schools. They’re in likely and unlikely places—affluent areas and low-income communities—rural, suburban, and urban locales. The common denominator for all of them is their proven commitment to excellence.

The fact that we have a rapidly growing number of exceptional school teams who are setting a new and higher bar for achievement in Arizona is very freeing for those of us in the public policy space. It means we can resist the temptation to direct our schools on the best way to deliver a quality education. We don’t need to direct schools on how to “offer x” because we already have so many schools proving the possible in so many different ways.

Education policy in Arizona should help us identify quality schools, fund them, and invest in expanding them.

Expanding access to excellence can happen when schools grow larger to serve more students, when they mentor others who want to improve, or when they replicate an already excellent school model.

Investments in quality schools are investments in expanding a culture that is already growing in our state. This culture emphasizes the essential need for investing in the teachers who do this work so that we can keep them teaching and hope that they will stay long enough to teach more students and instruct more colleagues.

The Results-Based Funding model in Governor Ducey’s proposed budget directs additional dollars to Arizona’s high quality classrooms and communities. It offers Arizona the most likely and the fastest opportunity we have to grow excellence for more and more students. Equal access to the kind of quality schools that are straining to grow in Arizona today will indeed provide us a tomorrow where education IS the great equalizer.