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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

1National Hispanic Environmental Council

Dear Students, Educators, and Enviro Leaders:

For those who have not seen our earlier emails, the National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC) is still accepting applications from students to attend our 14th annual, national “NM Minority Youth Environmental Training Institute”, to be held August 8—17, 2015, at national forests, parks, laboratories etc. in beautiful northern New Mexico.  NHEC covers all costs to attend.  The Institute is held and students housed at the Glorieta Conference Center in Glorieta, NM.

This is one of 3 Environmental STEM Institutes- in NYC, CA, NM- that NHEC operates across the country as we work to build the next generation of Latino/minority environmental professionals and scientists.  Interested students should apply promptly for this unique opportunity.

Regarding eligibility: as this is a national program the Institute is open to students from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

The NM Institute is an intensive, residential, science-based, 10 day long environmental education and envir. career program for top students, aged 17-20 deeply interested in the environment and a related major/career.

Through a full scholarship, NHEC covers ALL costs for students competitively selected, including transportation, housing, meals, science equipment, and more.

Using our Environmental STEM curriculum students learn a range of environmental and conservation issues.  Students also conduct Environmental Field Studies (air, soil, water testing, biological assessments, tree ecology, birding, more) using high-tech science equipment.  Also participating are volunteer role models–environmental professionals, many minority and from the sciences—who engage/inspire students to pursue an environmental/conservation career.

The sponsors are the U.S. Forest Service; U.S. EPA, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Thus students will also learn about federal internships, jobs, and research opportunities with these agencies, and how to apply.

So if you are passionate about the environment, enjoy science, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, AND been seeking a job in the enviro arena, this program is for you.

The attached contain all materials for students to apply, including selection criteria. Please read the Fact Sheet first; it has a full overview of the program.

To answer three FAQ’s: 1. yes, slots are still available although going fast.  2. there is no deadline per se; NHEC reviews applications/selects students on a rolling basis until all slots are filled.  Students are strongly urged to apply asap.  And 3. as this is a federally funded program eligibility is limited to U.S. Citizens, Permanent Legal Residents, and those with DACA status.

Lastly, we ask you to forward this email to those interested in this exciting program, including qualified students, educators, colleges, organizations, and more.  We thank you for your help.

Please contact NHEC’s Programs Coordinator, Juan Rodriguez, atjrodriguez@nheec1.org<mailto:jrodriguez@nheec1.org>
orrrivera@nheec1.org<mailto:rrivera@nheec1.org>  if you have questions.  Or call NHEC at 703-683-3956.   You can also download the materials to learn more about NHEC/our Institutes through our website at  www.nheec1.org<http://www.nheec1.org>

Roger Rivera
President, NHEC

2Ted Kraver

Guest Author: Theodore “Ted” Kraver, Ph.D.

I took my first online course in the early 1990s from the University of Arizona. The course was on the most profound human issue, “Consciousness,” a subject that has been studied and written about since ancient times. Decades of brain-mind research have generated hundreds of professional papers but have not gotten much further than Descartes’, “I think therefore I am.”

Prior to this online course, Northern Arizona University had been a pioneer in distance learning using a microwave tower system. The main classroom in Flagstaff linked to satellite classrooms around the state reaching all the way to Yuma. Later our Arizona Community College system linked their ten community colleges (from Pima to Northland Pioneer to Arizona Western) with a similar but non-microwave system based at the Maricopa Community College headquarters in Tempe. Since then online courses from K-12 through university graduate school have proliferated.

I had chatted with a gentleman at an Arizona Business and Education Coalition function. He works for a Chandler ed-tech company named Glynlyon.  Glynlyon is a conglomerate of four eLearning companies. One is Odysseyware, a pioneering Chandler, AZ company that is offering hundreds of simulation and interactive courses in the K-12 sector.

Some courses are strictly online and others are “blended” with seat time in a classroom with a teacher. There are even “flipped” courses! One study showed that flipped classrooms where students watch video lectures at home and address questions and problems in classroom, as highly effective.  The test scores increased in 67% of the classrooms. Ninth grade math failure dropped from 44 percent to 13 percent.

Along with community colleges and state universities, selective-admissions colleges are also branching out from ivy covered bricks and mortar buildings by delivering flexible learning.  In 2006 MIT and Harvard founded the massive open online course (MOOC) system with the online learning platform called edX. It is currently offering over 300 courses to 3 million students worldwide. Yale has a master’s in medical science degree for physician assistants. One lifespan learning student took classes at Berkeley, Brown, Stanford and Yale without earning a degree. My youngest son is the creative director for a major video game developer and has invented a number of new animation capture devices for his company. In lieu of college credits he spent his time using his highly developed self-learning ability.  

With our economy moving toward independent employment, specific learning and detailed listing of skills on a resume is becoming important. But for human-resource folks in the larger corporate and public sector entities, the degree(s) remain highly significant. Each of us must determine what is best of us.  But mandate for all students is their need to learn how to learn informally as well as formally. To self-manage a lifespan of learning using a plethora of sources, an individualized strategic learning plan is needed. 

What has worked for me is to find a quiet spot. I used a dark corner in a large public library (mom was a county librarian, so go figure!). ) First is a couple of hours just thinking about who I am now, my current situation and what I envision for the future. When the thoughts stop coming, I put down my pencil, and imagine one or more pathways into the future. Eventually decisions gel.  Then I decided what formal and informal education and training I might need. One of my early “library” decisions lead to an engineering job in Phoenix when I graduated college. A decade later the process started me on my 30 year quest for a PhD in engineering.  The following decade I decided my entrepreneur skills had a weak academic foundation, so off I went to get an MBA … and so it has worked for me. 

As I write this I am thinking that maybe it’s about time to hang out in a quiet library again, see you there. 


This past weekend Arizona SciTech in partnership with over 70 middle and high schools and dozens of community partners convened its inaugural Chief Science Officer Summer Institute.

CSOnoteBookfinalpg1Held at Tonto Creek Camp just outside of Payson, 88 of our Chief Science Officers or CSOs experienced a variety of workshops, science activities and talks to enhance their leadership, communication and ties with fellow CSOs. Community mentors or “SciTech Jedi” joined us from premiere Arizona organizations such as Intel, State Farm, Honeywell, TGen, UAT, ASU, Freeport McMoRan, Flinn Foundation to name a few.

CSOs – Enhancing the Voices for STEM 

CSO2A core component of the CSO concept is to increase student “voice” in the local, state and national conversation about STEM. All too often discussions about education and the workforce take place without potentially the most important stakeholder…students! What adults view about the future workforce may not be aligned with our students’ visions. To address this, CSOs are selected through a general election and tasked to capture the voice of their student population. As the number of CSOs build, so will their collective voice. To this end, students are organized into a statewide cabinets and work with one another and address larger, high impact issues and gaps as a collective group.  Starting with an inaugural cohort of 120, it is anticipated there will be over 500 elected CSOs by year 3 of the program.

We have high aspirations for our CSOs both at their school and in the community. By the end of the season each CSO will have:
– Attended a CSO leadership institute at Tonto Creek Camp
– Attended at least 2 regional or state-level cabinet meetings
– Identified and collaborated with a SciTech Jedi (community mentor) on their projects
– Participated in the online CSO mentorship class facilitated by the Arizona SciTech team
– Developed a personal CSO online profile
– Bridged at least one STEM opportunity and/or event with their campus
– Participated in at least one community conversation about STEM and education as an ambassador
– Published at least two blogs about their CSO experience on or off campus

Potential Reach CSO1

It is anticipated ~1300 students will be directly impacted in year 1. This includes the 120 elected CSOs and an average of 10 peers each CSO teams with at their school to support campus STEM programming. We anticipate an additional 7,000 – 35,000 students will indirectly be impacted through CSO related programming such as the general CSO election, students attending STEM related events and CSO related communications such as blogs, journal articles, website and social media posts.


Photo Designer: John Drury

2Ted Kraver

Guest Author: TheodoreTedKraver, Ph.D.

Let’s assume you aspire to a career in one of the STEAM areas of science, technology, engineering, arts or math. Then no matter what age or education level you must be ready to learn whether with formal education or on the job.  There are significant challenges. One is financial.

An AA degree or trade skill can be a vital entry into almost any STEAM career or higher education.  The current no-tuition access to public high school has not yet been extended to public community college and trade schools. The proposed federal plan for free community college has one flaw; it should have been implemented decades ago, like in other developed countries.

Access to hands-on learning provided by trade school or two year college is vital for many STEAM occupations. But four years is the universal goal for social mobility, and to build expert competence and knowledge, and secure better paying and stable employment.  About 70% of parents want K-12 to be more challenging so their children can achieve at least a middle class lifestyle. Unfortunately only 50% of parents expect their children to achieve four years of higher education.  Families stressed with financial hardship are another major cause of student failure.  The starting point of academic learning readiness are pre-schools, not only for low-income children but for all children. Unfortunately less than one third of Arizona preschoolers are enrolled, placing us at 49th in the country.

The goal of Common Core standards and testing is to lift students from all economic sectors and prepare them for higher education and advanced training skills. Standards and testing cost little compared to the all up annual cost of $13 billion for Arizona K-12 public education. Unfortunately they do little to get at the root cause for student failure, the need for pre-school education and parental support for all students.

That magic number of 49th academic readiness compounds from preschool through primary to middle to secondary school system until high school remediation is not possible. Maybe 49th in PK-12 annual investment is the problem. Maybe I should address the challenge in more familiar business terms.

Let’s rename PreK-12 education to Arizona Education Enterprise (AEE). Now onto an analysis using STEAM and business management methodologies. Scientific research and engineering math has revealed that current operations are only 30% successful. Forty percent (40%) of students graduate but are not ready for higher education or training. Worse, 30% of students drop out before graduation. Our AEE product line produces 30% scrap and 40% of potential sales are rejected by our customers due to inadequate quality.

The business approach would be to hire a skilled turnaround engineer that can fix our AEE production processes with emerging technologies, effective practices and industry research.  She installs a continuous education and training system for all employees. This consumes 10% of their working time but increased efficiencies and effectiveness more than compensate.  Every software, hardware, process and facility vendor provides input to redesign of the production facility. Research based metrics and systems are installed to deliver real time feedback for the workers. Significant new investment is secured to the transformation based on the expected efficiencies and drastic reductions in scrap and customer returns.

Could be science, technology, math, engineering and yes artistic analysis, integrated with business investment practices would start the tractor moving from back 49 acres of learning readiness into the blue ribbon for student success at the Arizona State Fair.

Ref. Frank Bruni, “Cradle to Ivory Tower” NY TIMES  2015


By: Gabrielle Olson and Sarah Mason, ASU LightWorks

When you think about light, what comes to mind? Do you think of a campfire in a dark forest, stars from a galaxy far away, or the neon sign across your street?

However you choose to envision it, light is all around us. Humans have had a long history of experimenting with different ways to use light. Some of the greatest minds have dedicated their lives to understanding how to make light, and how to use it. Light is part of how we communicate, navigate, learn and explore.

This year, Arizona State University LightWorks in partnership with other departments throughout ASU celebrate innovators from the past and present who have contributed to light science and its applications through the United Nations’ International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). To participate in the university’s light-oriented events, continue to visit the LightWorks website, asulightworks.com.

“Light doesn’t just provide us the ability to see, it is a power source, a source of inspiration for writers and artists, and a mechanism through which we can communicate and discover,” said Gary Dirks, director of ASU LightWorks and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. “At ASU LightWorks and across the university, we embrace the entire spectrum of light-oriented research, expression and discovery. By celebrating the International Year of Light with the United Nations, we can illuminate all that our students and researchers are doing with light and how their work impacts the globe.”

Learn more here. 


News Release: June 26, 2015
Contact: Bonnie Stevens

Science Festival Book Captures Spirit of Discovery
First 25 Years Book Release at Flagstaff’s Science Legacy Talk July 18

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Whether they are walking on the moon, chasing lava, racing toward tornadoes, tracking comets, battling superbugs, landing robots or discovering dinosaurs, world-class scientists have participated in the Flagstaff Festival of Science since it began a quarter of a century ago.

A new book, Flagstaff Festival of Science: The First 25 Years,captures the essence of the nation’s longest running, free science festival, traces the scientific roots of the “Skylight City” and shares stories and quotes from its famous participating scientists. The book was released during a free talk, “Flagstaff’s Science Legacy” by authors Kevin Schindler and Bonnie Stevens on Saturday, July 18, at Riordan Mansion State Historic Park.

“Thanks to unparalleled deposits of plants and stones and water and bones, to stunningly clear skies that unveil worlds beyond our own, Flagstaff has become a mecca for learning about the universe around us. This program will look at some of the exciting discoveries and dedicated scientists who built this legacy,” said Schindler.

Northern Arizona University President Emeritus Eugene Hughes, Ph.D., is credited with first bringing local scientists and media representatives together to explore the possibilities of a Flagstaff science festival. In the book’s foreword he writes, “You will see, as you read this brief history of the Flagstaff Festival of Science, that their work, and that of successive groups, has led to the development of one of the finest, if not the finest, festivals in the nation.”

Throughout the book, scientists share their love for adventure and gripping anticipation of what will happen next in their world of discovery. “Science is an adventure of the mind,” says retired U.S. Geological Survey research geologist and founding festival board member Ivo Lucchitta, Ph.D.

“I like it when I don’t know what I’m going to see. It’s like opening a present,” says storm chaser Warren Faidley. “Odds are you are not going to see something over the top…but you might. It’s about trying to be in the right place at the right time and being as prepared as you can be.”

Space Shuttle Astronaut John Grunsfeld, Ph.D., says, “It’s that curiosity that drives us all, and has driven us since we’ve been human.”

The book also introduces readers to individuals who grew up with the festival and are now enjoying science endeavors professionally and/or personally as adults. For 33-year-old Samantha Christensen, who began attending the festival when she was 8, meeting the scientists and being in their workspace made science real. “I could envision myself as a scientist,” she says.

Influenced by her festival experiences, Christensen earned a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics at the University of Arizona where she also took astronomy courses. Today she manages the public education program at Lowell Observatory, designs space camps for kids and serves on the festival board of directors.

For 25 years, the Flagstaff Festival of Science has invited youth, their families, visitors and lifelong learners into laboratories, observatories, museums and out to the field to participate alongside scientists.

This year, the Flagstaff Festival of Science will be Exploring New Horizons, Sept. 18 – 27. Leading the way will be planetary scientist Alan Stern, Ph.D., the man who heads up the pioneering New Horizons spacecraft mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

“We’re on Pluto’s doorstep and we don’t know what we’re going to find,” says Stern, who is scheduled to deliver the Festival’s Shoemaker Keynote Presentation at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18 in Northern Arizona University’s Ardrey Auditorium.

“It will be fascinating to see the best images that have been captured of the dwarf planet, and hear what scientists are finding out from this amazing journey into the Kuiper Belt where hundreds of other icy worlds exist,” says Festival President and meteorologist Brian A. Klimowski, Ph.D. “It is only fitting that some of the latest images and new information about Pluto will be coming back home to the town where Pluto was discovered.”

Flagstaff Festival of Science: The First 25 Years can be found at the Flagstaff Public Library and on the festival’s website at scifest.org. It is also available as a gift to festival donors at the $100 level and above.

“Inspiration for the book came from our rich community of scientists,” said Schindler. “NPR ScienceFriday Host Ira Flato drove it home when he said, “’You can’t get a cup of coffee in Flagstaff without bumping into a scientist.’”

Stevens says she has been in awe of the many local and visiting scientists who have shared their enthusiasm and knowledge with Flagstaff. “It seemed important to document their inspirational stories and messages. My favorite quote comes from Apollo Astronaut Alan Bean when asked what went through his head as he walked in the stillness of the moonscape. He said, ‘“On the moon, everything is gray. And then you realize, we live in the Garden of Eden.”

“I find the book just wonderful in subject, organization, writing, illustrations and design,” said Lucchitta. “The authors and the designer (Andi Kleinman) should be proud of what they have achieved, and so should Flagstaff.”

The free talk, “Flagstaff’s Science Legacy,” was hosted by the Flagstaff Festival of Science and Riordan Mansion State Historic Park, which is operated through a cooperative agreement with the Arizona Historical Society

For more information, visit www.scifest.org.

Thank you so much for your interest in the FIRST Senior Mentor and the VISTA Volunteer positions available in Arizona. We are excited to have so much interest in our programs.
FIRST is anxious, as are we in Arizona, to interview and identify candidates for the positions. Here is an outline of the job requirements and the process.
·         Send resumes for the Senior Mentor position and the VISTA Volunteer Position to:
Emily Rose Bainton, MS
AmeriCorps VISTA Programs Coordinator, FIRST®
V   (603) 666-3906 x 232
F   (603) 666-3907
·         Copy Carol Popovich, carol.popovich@microchip.com, on all correspondence.
·         Emily will interview candidates and then set up interviews with Carol Popovich, Melody Simoncic and Affiliate Partners in Arizona
·         FIRST will make offers once decisions have been made
·         We hope to have decisions made within the next two weeks.
Information on FIRST Senior Mentor position:
·         See attached job description.
·         Part-time position (10-20 hours/week; 40 hours/month)
·         Pay is $618/month
·         One year contract with FIRST
·         Works from home
·         Supports Jr. FLL, FLL, FTC, FRC efforts in Arizona. Familiarity with FIRST programs is extremely helpful
·         Travel throughout Arizona will be required to work with teams/mentors
·         FIRST Senior Mentors identify and recruit volunteers to be mentors, coaches, and event volunteers while supporting existing teams, mentors, and coaches.
·         The FSM works with and reports to the Regional Director and Affilitate Partners in the field as well as the Senior Mentor Program Coordinator at HQ.
Information about the FIRST VISTA Volunteer position:
·         Two positions available
o   One at ASU, Ira Fulton Schools of Engineering, Tempe, AZ (Site Supervisor: Jen Velez)
o   One at AZFirst, working out of Microchip Technology in Chandler, AZ (Site Supervisor: Carol Popovich)
·         30-40 hours per week (flexible schedule includes some weekend events, after hours, etc.)
·         Commit to one year of service, working full-time, and are considered to be always “on-call”
·         Must be at least 18 years of age or older
·         Cannot be a full-time student (can work part-time if it doesn’t interfere with duties)
·         Experience financial hardship as part of VISTA commitment and receive only a small living allowance (about $950 per month)
·         Raise awareness about all four FIRST programs specifically in underserved areas,
·         Recruit teams, mentors, coaches to support and participate in all four FIRST programs,
·         Raise funds, secure resources, connect teams to existing resources,
·         Support competitions and expos for all FIRST programs,
·         Support and sustain existing teams, coaches, mentors, and volunteers by providing support, training and guidance,
·         Educate students about the availability of scholarships and grants and support their applications for these resources,
If you are interested, we are anxious to hear from you. Please send your resumes to Emily at FIRST and to Carol Popovich.
Carol S. Popovich
Senior STEM Outreach Programs Representative
(Science, Tehnology, Engineering, Math)
Microchip Technology Inc.
2355 W. Chandler Blvd.
Chandler, AZ 85224
(c) 480-335-2091
FIRST Regional Director

1Kyrene School District

Contact: Nancy Dudenhoefer 

For Immediate Release: February 3, 2015

Six 8th grade students from Aprende Middle School have won “Best in Nation” for their entry into the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. 

The team is one of four middle school teams selected for the “Best in Nation” honor.  They were presented with a check for $20,000 at an assembly today at Aprende.   

The students, Alex Agnick, Evan Stewart, Matt Hayes, Mitchell Laukonen, Quinn McGrath and Udayketan Mohanty, worked with faculty advisor, Eric Santos, on designing a mobile app intended to improve environmental sustainability.  The app encourages users to engage in “green acts” such as picking up trash or opting for environmentally friendly modes of transportation.  

The goal of the Challenge is to increase student interest and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and mobile technology through an engaging and empowering learning experience.  The Challenge demonstrates for students exciting opportunities for their futures in STEM careers.  

Students are asked to develop an app that addresses a real need or problem in their school or community.  While designing their apps, students consider marketplace need, usefulness, audience and viability and align their app concept with one of the three Verizon areas of focus–Education, Healthcare or Sustainability. 

Faculty advisor, Eric Santos said, “I was impressed with the design process they went through. The team really dug into the social networking aspect of mobile apps and how it could link to tangible environmental change in their world. Their problem solving and marketing skills were fully engaged in this project.”

The $20,000 cash award may be used to assist in the conversion of their winning design into a live app.  The award can also be used to enhance STEM education at their school. 

In addition to the cash award, the students each received a Samsun Galaxy Tablet.  Verizon Foundation will showcase the Best in Nation team winners on the Verizon Foundation websites, verizonfoundation.org.  

View the Aprende winning entry


The Kyrene Elementary School District is an excelling district serving more than 18,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grades at 25 schools. The District’s boundaries encompass parts of Tempe, Guadalupe, Ahwatukee, Chandler and the Gila River Indian Reservation. Kyrene accepts students who do not live within District boundaries through its Open Enrollment Program. To learn more about the Kyrene School District, visit www.kyrene.org or call 480/783-4000.


By Nikki Cassis, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Did dinosaurs roam the Grand Canyon?

Well, the answer depends on whom you talk to. And how old they believe the majestic canyon to be.

Although it might be fun to imagine scientists and researchers arguing about whether giant reptiles were hanging around Arizona’s most famous landmark 65 million years ago, this isn’t a debate about dinosaur territories. It’s a question of when the deep walls of the Grand Canyon were eroded by the snaking Colorado River.

Recently two different groups published papers that suggested the Grand Canyon started forming more than 6 million years ago. One group said the canyon had eroded to nearly its current form by 70 million years ago, and another said it started eroding 17 million years ago. These papers have caused several groups to take a closer look at both old and new data sets – including researchers from Arizona State University.

“We are confident the western canyon is younger than 6 million years and is certainly younger than 18 million years,” said Andrew Darling, a graduate student in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. The research is published online June 10 in the journal Geosphere.

The problem with the assertion is that studying the age of the Grand Canyon isn’t easy.

Measuring time can be tricky when everything you’re studying is eroding away. And the whole region has been eroding for a long time, so not much is left of the landscape that was there when the Grand Canyon started forming. Yet, most people think the Grand Canyon is young – around 6 million years old based on what is preserved.

To learn more about the team’s research, visit Research Matters.

2Ted Kraver

Guest Author:  Theodore “Ted” Kraver, Ph.D. 

The Arizona SciTech Festival crescendo of events has subsided.  The school year is winding down and many transitions are taking place. I recently experienced a very personal reminder that science, engineering, technology and mathematics exist and must thrive in a much wider world. Take history.  My grandson has graduated his 6th grade class as the top math student. He has also won a place on the state history team that will be traveling to Washington DC next month to compete in the national finals. His subject was the Maoist Revolution and the struggles of his grandparents and mother before they emigrated from Shanghai to Arizona in the early 1990’s. His sister is also graduating Chandler High School and will be attending Cal Poly in Southern Californian pursuing Aeronautical and Mechanical engineering.  Cal Poly rates second to the U.S. Military Academy for engineering in public universities. Her strong suit is art and she expects this talent will strengthen her STEM education.

Last week I dropped in to visit my major professor at ASU who somehow got me through my PhD at age 57.  Jami Shah teaches in the aeronautical/mechanical engineering department.  One of Dr. Shah’s research projects is “student career decision making.” In colleges with both aeronautical and mechanical engineer the freshmen are equally split between the two majors. When junior year rolls the passion for either airplanes or cars has been replaced with the need for flexibility in the job market. Ninety percent graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Dr. Shah also has a research project to supplement memorization type tests used to assess readiness for engineering college with tests that determine capabilities in:

  1. Divergent Thinking
  2. Quantitative Reasoning
  3. Spatial Visualization
  4. Problem Formulation

These four innate talents are vital for success as an engineer or scientist for their use of memorized STEM facts, formulas and procedures.

If the old truism holds, “A college is only as good as its incoming freshman class,” then the real challenge for Arizona is K-12 education. I attended the annual Arizona Capital Times “Morning Scoop” for K-12 education. Their panelists were Representative Heather Carter, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, President of Arizona Superintendents Association Roger Freemen, Chairman Arizona Board of Regents Jay Heiler, and the parent group of Support Our Schools Arizona executive director Doreen Zannis. The main topic was funding of K-12 education.

They discussed the recent deep cuts to all of Arizona education to balance the State budget deficits. The deficits had been created during the past years of recession that reduced tax revenues. They then shifted to the current situation and the future of K-12 education. Arizona is one of lowest states in per student funding. With low salaries our teacher talent level is down because it is hard to attract or retain the most qualified teachers.  Disadvantaged kids who need higher funding to achieve an education equitable to the advantaged kids are not being served.  About 10% of Arizona’s high schools produce 50% of students that achieve college degrees.

The Arizona K-12 funding system fluctuates with the economy and is not based on the needs of our students. The result is increasing class sizes, decreasing critical classroom and counselor support, and less effective facilities and technology.  Local community property tax base provides much of the funding for their schools. This creates a financial disparity between rich and poor districts. Rich community high schools have 50% of graduates achieving college; the poorest communities experience a 18% rate.  Funding has also been cut from the highly successful post high school technical training path, JTED.

The panel closed with, “Hope springs eternal…especially for the 2016 legislative session.” The economy is getting better and tax revenues are increasing.  Diane Douglas is reviewing the tangled “mess” of tax rates, formulas and requirements that plague the Title 15 laws which govern Arizona K-12 education. There are a host of unfunded mandates that schools cannot address. Many laws thwart the Arizona Constitution’s mandate for a general and uniform school system.  Forward looking education innovation such as emerging learning support technologies is hampered by the laws in our 103 year old Title 15.

Morning Scoop wrapped up by expressing a unanimous conviction. A new K-12 funding system will be crafted and put into law to replaces the current system by our 2016 legislators.  Keep tuned!