I’d like to welcome everyone to the Read On Arizona Literacy Summit.
This is the third year I have participated in the Summit and it’s great to be with you once again to reaffirm our shared commitment to supporting Arizona’s children on their paths to becoming strong readers and successful students.
The importance of a student’s ability to read by the end of third grade is something I mentioned earlier this year in my State of the State address.
We know that early literacy is critical for achievement in the classroom early on, just as it’s also a strong predictor of high school graduation and college attendance.
And the path to reading proficiency by third grade starts in the early childhood years.
Language and early literacy skills develop from birth.
And the first few years of life are when brain connections develop most rapidly, more than at any other time in life.
That’s why the early years are the best opportunity to help children develop the language and vocabulary skills that are the foundation for being a successful reader.
I am proud of the work of Read On Arizona. And I share your commitment to improving language and literacy outcomes for our youngest children.
Arizona is showing consistent measureable progress in reading, especially for our students in low-income neighborhoods.
But when 57 percent of our third graders are not proficient, it means whatever we’re doing isn’t enough.
We simply have to do better by those students and their families. And we ALL have a role to play in this effort.
I’m here to support the important work you’re all doing, and to reaffirm my support of early literacy efforts in Arizona.
This work is vital for our students and the future of our state.
And I’m glad that through the collective efforts of Read On Arizona partners, we are helping to provide real opportunities for all students to read at grade level.
Literacy is the foundation of my education policy agenda, and we’re working every day to build upon that foundation.
I’m proud that we’ve brought more funding to education through Prop. 123 to bring 3.5 billion in new dollars to the education system over the next ten years.
And our latest state budget invests $163 million into k-12 schools above and beyond inflation.
In that budget, over the next two years are an additional $20 million for full-day kindergarten.
These funds are specifically geared toward helping schools throughout the state where 90 percent or more of the students are economically disadvantaged. So we’re focusing our resources where they are needed the most.
Today, I’m also excited to announce that Arizona was selected by the Education Commission of the States as one of a handful of states to participate in a K-3 Quality Initiative Project.
Thanks to another public-private partnership between my office and Helios Education Foundation, that provided the funding needed to make this project happen, we will build on the excellent work of the Arizona Early Childhood Alliance, who have been leading the charge to elevate early childhood issues throughout the state.
In addition to our partnership, I’d like to thank the project’s strategic team for the great work you’ve done so far and will do in the next six months:
- The Helios Education Foundation,
- The Arizona Department of Education,
- First Things First,
- Arizona Grantmakers Forum,
- Expect More Arizona AND
- Read On Arizona
The K-3 Quality Initiative will help our state shape more effective education policies to increase third grade reading proficiency and I’m excited for what lies ahead.
Working together, we can make real advances in giving our young children the life-long gift of literacy.
Arizona is counting on us all to do more than ever before to ensure that our children have the tools and opportunities they need to be strong readers, successful students, and thriving citizens.
And I have no doubt that this team will continue to make that happen.
Thank you and God Bless.