Building Healthy Communities in Arizona Through Public Education
Regardless of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, citizenship, or race, one thing that children have in common is that they need and are deserving of a quality education. One that would prepare them for the world they are entering. One that would provide them with the tools needed to identify and overcome obstacles. One that would give them the knowledge that they need to stay safe. Building healthy communities in Arizona would do this.
Dr. Dionne Mills Contributing Writer
The quality of education and support for our children is directly tied to funding. In Arizona, funding is inequitably and unethically tied to zip codes, property taxes, bonds and overrides, and tax credits, which inherently benefit wealthier schools. Every child in Arizona deserves a quality public school in their neighborhood, regardless of zip code or family income.
Building Healthy Communities: Public Education Reform Matters
While we know that the ability of parents to provide a safe, secure, and enriching environment for their children is not the same in every home, most children attend local public schools. This presents an enormous opportunity to level the playing field for kids.
In order to build healthy communities, we must ensure that every school has the ability to attend to the comprehensive needs of its students. Year after year, state budget cuts in education make this more and more difficult. This cannot be done without adequate education funding.
Advocating for Education
One school or one zip code should not have the monopoly on funding, support, and resources while the one right next door is struggling to meet even their most basic needs. We must fight for a restructuring of how funding is collected and distributed to schools, with priority going to where the needs are highest. We must do this to eliminate school funding inequality. Arizona has the most inequitable school funding in the entire country. School funding statistics show that Arizona spends nearly $7000 more per student in majority white districts than majority non-white districts.
Health Education and Social Emotional Learning
As a physician, I see how important it is for the whole child to be considered in the education process. Access to skilled school counselors and psychologists is critical to ensuring the mental health wellness of our students and their social and emotional learning, thus optimizing their ability to learn. Ensuring students have a healthy breakfast and lunch has a tremendous impact on student and community health, as well.
It has been well established that the rates of unplanned teen pregnancies decrease dramatically when all students have access to similar comprehensive sex education through their public schools. Unfortunately, so many schools across Arizona and the country are being pressured to no longer provide such an important service for our students. As an Obstetrician Gynecologist, I see firsthand how lives are either enriched or greatly limited simply based on how much knowledge a person possesses about the way their body works.
If we want to build healthy communities in Arizona, we have to attend to the needs of our children and one major way to do that is to invest robustly in our local public schools.