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Report Sounds Alarm On Education Gaps, Arizona's Economic Future

A report commissioned by the Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center said that failing to address gaps in education could lead to a less qualified workforce and hurt economic development.

The 70-page report lays out the gaps between students of different races. Minority students are more likely to come from low-income families, more likely to be enrolled in special education and more likely to drop out.

“If we don’t pay attention to it we’re going to rue the day," said Susan Carlson, chair of the Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center ( AMEPAC), a group focused on improving educational access and achievement.

Carlson said an educated workforce should matter to everyone.

“The kids that come out of our schools are going to be the kids that are carrying hypodermic needles around with them, going to be ready to take care of you," she said. "So if you care about your own welfare, you’re going to want to have well-educated people around you because they’re our caretakers for the future.”

As a whole, minority students currently make up the majority in Arizona classrooms. According to the report, more Hispanics are enrolled at all grade levels compared to any other group. That’s one reason Monica Villalobos said her members of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are getting involved.

“We know that we need to expose students and take accountability for education in the business community so that we can ensure economic success in the future," she said.

Other report findings and recommendations:

  • Arizona’s public community colleges are major access points for students into higher education-– especially for American Indian, black and Hispanic students. But fewer than three in 10 “transfer eligible” students actually transfer to one of the state’s three universities within six years of enrollment.
  • Analyze and strengthen entrance and exit requirements for English Language Learner services.
  • Identify and/or refocus dedicated state-level funding streams to expand projects proven to increase the success of lower socioeconomic students.
  • Provide all students no cost/low cost classes for ACT/SAT test prep.
  • Establish a K-12/post-secondary education task force to explore current and future programs to reduce need for remediation.
As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.