Ten Arizona mayors formed a roundtable to use their influence and leverage city resources to improve education last week.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, founding chairman of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, said that cities have as much at stake as anyone else in what goes on in classrooms.
“First and foremost we are going to look in the mirror and say: ‘What can we do within our own jurisdictions to advance education?’” Stanton said at a news conference announcing the effort Wednesday.
He said the mayors’ involvement will help students meet the challenge posed by tougher school standards.
“We accept that challenge and we are committed as mayors to be part of that solution,” he said. “And so each mayor is going to have their own ideas about what they can do in their own communities to advance education.”
Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, Mesa’s Scott Smith and Gilbert’s John Lewis joined Stanton and mayors from Tucson, Avondale, Goodyear, Miami, Oro Valley, and Sahuarita in starting the roundtable, which plans to meet four times a year.
The Helios Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Arizona and Florida that focuses on increasing access to postsecondary education, provided $250,000 to get the roundtable going.
Helios Chairman Vince Roig said that mayors should be a part of the solution when it comes to improving education.
“If you just look at the numbers or you just look at the grades or you just look at the funding of education, you might conclude that Arizona is in a race for the bottom,” he said.
Roig said he hopes the mayors can use their influence to solve these problems.
“We funded the project frankly because we believe that mayors are critical to the solution of education,” he said.
Mesa’s Smith said that the group of mayors has seen better than anyone else the impact that education has on the ability of communities to rise above economic challenges.
“We want to be advocates for quality education in Arizona, advocates for education that gets to a goal, an objective,” Smith said. “And that’s to elevate economic opportunity in our state.”
Tempe’s Mitchell added: “Education in our state is a quality-of-life issue that I think all the mayors realize how important it is for a community, as well as to the economic development opportunities.”
Stanton said mayors in the roundtable can be most effective at committing city resources to advancing education.
Asked what more Phoenix could do to advance education, Stanton said the city could make Head Start programs a higher priority, improve after-school programs and introduce reading programs in public libraries.
“There’s a lot that the city can do that we currently aren’t doing to advance education,” he said.