The path to a quality education for every child begins and ends with a great teacher. This undisputed fact is what continues to drive important policy discussion and state level funding priorities.

Over the last four years, as Arizona rocketed out of the Great Recession and since Governor Ducey took office, the state infused $2.7 billion new dollars to K-12 education, first through Prop 123, then the extension of Prop 301, and this isn’t the end. This year’s budget continues to prioritize Arizona’s K-12 classrooms with a total of $637 million new dollars included for K-12 education along with additional dollars for community colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, our teachers continued to propel Arizona students to some of the largest academic gains in the country – sustaining what has now become a decade-long trend of progress.

This year, as teacher appreciation week comes to a close, Arizona lawmakers are putting together the pieces of the state budget for the next fiscal year. The process started with a funding proposal from the Executive Office, which included a fulfillment of the promise to deliver a 20 percent pay raise to teachers by 2020. To date, many school districts are following through on this commitment and we thank the school boards that are giving teachers the raises they deserve.

Beyond new funding and increased teacher pay, Arizona has worked to reduce bureaucracy for new Arizona teachers and for out-of-state teachers with a good record to move to Arizona and start teaching on day one.

Across the country, there are states that make it nearly impossible for a teacher with years of experience to receive a license without paying for additional college classes and certification tests. This was hurting Arizona schools and teaching professionals.

No longer is that the case in Arizona. We are a full reciprocity state.

We value a public school teacher’s prior experience and certification, no matter a teacher’s home state. Updated state laws provide teachers a streamlined and easy process to transfer certification across state lines, a law we supported and the Governor signed in 2017.

Arizona is also the first state in the country to walk the talk on educator professionalism and respect their ability to develop Teacher Preparation programs. Schools like those in Globe and Vail are building their own teachers-teaching teachers talent pipelines at the local level and, no surprise, it’s working!

Our community and public partners are also doing great things for the next generation of teachers.

Arizona’s traditional teacher colleges are looking at new ways to prepare future teachers for the classroom. Arizona State University Dean of Education Carol Basile is rethinking the role of training teachers so they are ready to take on classroom responsibilities independently and confidently earlier. Northern Arizona University was the first to take Governor Ducey’s Teachers Academy statewide thus providing more teaching candidates the opportunity to exit college without smothering debt.

Last but not least, we have championed numerous policies that put the resources and decision-making in the hands of individual school teachers and leaders. Starting next year, teachers and the public will see how much of each school’s resources makes it to their campus and is used for teachers and the classroom. Since 2017, Results-Based Funding has gone directly to schools with effective educators and in-demand programs and empowered teachers to use resources as they see fit rather than the front office.

When it comes to education, and especially to making Arizona a great place for teachers, Arizona is not taking its foot off the gas. As we continue to invest in our teachers and schools and remove barriers to entering and staying in the teaching profession, we bolster the number one contributor to student success – our teachers.

For every one of you who embraces your job as a calling and does it with excellence and determination, we say thank you – a million times, thank you!