Phoenicians are familiar with grim statistics, e.g., in the US, Arizona is #47 in education quality, 49th in spending/student. There have been innumerable academic and government meetings to no avail. On April 12, 2016, businesspeople and administrators gathered at Business and Education: Next Steps for Arizona hosted by the Phoenix Business Journal at the Phoenix Art Museum. They learned about a marketing study, contracted by co-host Alliance Bank of Arizona, and discussed how business needs to play a bigger role in supporting education.
The goals of the study, involving 400 Arizona CEOs, included gauging the business climate and identifying public policy priorities. The majority of the respondents were positive about the future (i.e., 89% expect to expand their businesses this year). But the greatest identified threat to this growth is the deficiency of employees with key skills.
Wendy Godfrey (Westgroup Research) and Alliance Bank’s President Ed Zito reported study results and moderated a panel of business leaders. Chris Camacho (GPEC) pointed out that, while Phoenix has recovered the number of jobs lost during the recession, it was the last major city to accomplish that. He noted that Arizona’s education ranking has been the biggest obstacle to attracting corporations. Likewise, Nicole Enright told of having three top executive candidates turning down Avnet because of the poor K-12 ranking of Phoenix.
Janice Palmer (Helios Education Foundation) moderated a panel discussion of key players in education. Jennifer Johnson (Support Our Schools Arizona) reminded the audience of the important role informed parents and quality teachers must play.
Governor Doug Ducey endorsed passing Proposition 123 on May 17 to provide $3.5 billion from the land trust for K-12 education. It would provide critical resources for per child spending and teachers’ salaries.
Brian Mueller, President of Grand Canyon University, gave the most passionate speech. He identified 3-8 PM as the most influential period of the day for students, and spoke of how GCU has trained 1000 students to be tutors/mentors for Alhambra High School. He challenged businesspeople to embrace immigration and cited how the cycle of poverty is being broken (e.g. house values up and crime down) in GCU’s neighborhood.
Phoenix businesses have taken a lead in addressing social policies (e.g., MLK holiday, SB 1062, etc.) that threatened Arizona’s economy. According to the survey taken at the event, the majority of the audience left informed and inspired to take actions to improve education in Phoenix.