The five candidates for state superintendent of public instruction all agree there's room for improvement in Arizona's education system.
But where that can and should happen varies.
Republican candidates Margaret Dugan, John Huppenthal and Beth Price and Democratic candidates Penny Kotterman and Jason Williams are all vying in the Aug. 24 primary election for a spot on the November general ballot.
While opportunities for school choice have been praised by many, the cuts to education in the last two years have made fodder for much criticism.
"It narrows down to one issue ... in terms of the leaders in charge, especially at the Capitol, we don't see it (education) as an investment. We see it as an expense," Williams said. "When you have a budget crisis it's looked at as an area to cut rather than the longer-term ramifications by not investing in a strong education system for our kids."
Kotterman said the big discussions by decision makers will revolve around not just the finances of education - and how to pay for it - but the idea of accountability.
Arizona and other states have been asked to adopt a set of national core standards.
And this week, the state was named as a finalist in the federal Race to the Top education grant program, which requires some educational reform.
"Everybody has some idea about how they want that (accountability) to look," Kotterman said. "It will have a huge impact on our schools for the next decade.
That whole issue of testing and assessment and accountability has been going on since 2000, since we passed Prop. 301 and we ended up with Arizona Learns."
Arizona Learns is the state's system of grading schools based on testing of students, including their progress from one year to another.
The labels for this year were released last month by the state Department of Education.
Those labels will look different next year as the state moves from the "underperforming to excelling" format to a letter grade system.
Those changes were adopted by lawmakers this spring after Huppenthal, a state senator from Chandler, introduced new legislation.
Part of his idea to change the system is to put more emphasis on progress made by the most underperforming students in Arizona's public schools, he said.
The new formula for school labels will take that more into account, he said, allowing schools to register how they're doing with those students.
"More than 40 percent of our fourth-graders lack basic reading skills.
If we can't get those students up to basic reading skillsby the fourth grade, all the research suggests we've lost those students for the rest of their educational career. They will never catch up," Huppenthal said.
Price said one way to bring those students up to par is by "moving up" the curriculum.
She wants to see students taught in grades one through six what they are now learning in grades one through eight.
By doing so, she said, there will be less remediation going on in the upper grades and at the college level.
"Improve those and you improve the public schools," she said of pushing more upon the students.
Her plan includes teaching students in first grade material one grade higher in the first year and then moving up through the grade levels.
Dugan said there are great schools in Arizona, but they're not getting recognized.
"A lot of people think all of the education in Arizona is abysmal and I would like to dispel that myth," she said. "Of course we have some schools that do need help. That's where my strength lies - in turning schools that have difficulty."
Dugan said audits need to be done in a number of areas, from seeing that teachers have the standards in front of them and the resources to teach them to looking at the attendance records of students and leadership at the school.
"I'd like the opportunity to use the resources of the ADE and educators that have a track record," she said. "Get them hired and bring them into schools and do an audit, find the areas where improvement needs to be and help them turn around."