Agency gets funds to study reforming K-12 education
Arizona Daily Star
Jan. 11, 2008

By George B. Sánchez

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

A local agency has received funding from Washington, D.C., for a large-scale survey on how K-12 education should be reformed.

The input process will include youth focus groups, surveys of more than 22,000 seventh- and 11th-graders in Pima County, and community town halls.

"Arizona consistently ranks on the bottom when it comes to education and education funding," said Robin Hiller, executive director of Voices for Education, a non-profit organization that promotes public education. It's coordinating the 2020 Vision Project, which includes the community survey.

"What if we could make Pima County look different from the rest of the state?" she asked. "But schools can't do it alone. Everyone needs to be involved."

The 2020 Vision Project also includes the University of Arizona, three local school districts, members of the Tucson City Council and Pima County Board of Supervisors and other local organizations.

Voices for Education has received $65,000 for the project. Three other cities nationally — Austin, Texas; Sacramento, Calif.; and Memphis, Tenn. — have funding from the Public Education Network in Washington, D.C., for similar development. The plan is to give federal and local education leaders new ideas on improvement, Hiller said. The Forum for Youth Investment, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization, and the American Association of School Administrators also are funding the project.

Various youth organizations, including the Every Voice in Action Foundation, have been contacted for focus groups, Hiller said. UA will help survey every seventh- and 11th-grader in public schools in Pima County, 22,000 youths in all, she said.

"The survey is an opportunity to really see what's going on with kids," Hiller said.

Tucson is the only one of the four cities surveying seventh- and 11th-grade students, she said.

"We're trying to get a variety of kids," she said. "Not just kids who are doing great or volunteer for everything, but really a wide spectrum of our community."

There are three town-hall meetings coming up, including this Saturday at El Pueblo Senior Center, 101 W. Irvington Road.

City Councilman Steve Leal, Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer and Sunnyside Unified School District Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo will attend the Saturday meeting, Hiller said. The meetings will be meant to gather information and comments regarding education.

The other town hall meetings are scheduled for Jan. 30 and March 1.

● Contact reporter George B. Sánchez at 573-4195 or at