PHOENIX — Phoenix International Academy gained a reputation for personalized learning. Using technology to tailor lessons to individual students. On Thursday, Governor Doug Ducey and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came to see what the charter school does first hand. “We’re happy to invest in that when you see thriving kids and thriving environments,” the Governor said.
Phoenix International Academy is among the first schools in Arizona to receive a microgrant from the department of education, awarded thru the state, for creating effective small learning models which target students and families in need. “These microgrants help keep kids learning no matter what challenges or obstacles are in their way,” said Governor Ducey.
As part of her visit, Secretary DeVos announced Arizona will receive an additional $500,000 over the million dollars the state received in June to reward schools who develop innovative programs which help students learn. Public school advocates wish there was more money. With over a million Arizona students enrolled in public education, the grant money doesn’t go very far.
“So is this benefiting district schools? No. Because we’re talking about needs with several more zeroes behind them than they’re getting and we’re talking a lot more kids than this money could ever make a difference for,” said Dawn Penich-Thacker of Save Our Schools Arizona.
District schools educate nearly all of the students who live in high poverty areas as well as students who are disabled. Save Our Schools says while some district schools received microgrants in the initial offering, most of the money is going to charters and privately run schools.
“It’s a lot of talk, it’s a lot of buzz words that will make people feel good,” Penich-Thacker said. “But you just look at the numbers and it’s not enough money. It is not going to the kids who need it most.”
A for Arizona, the organization which distributes the grant money says it is time to support new education models that ensure students and families thrive. Public school advocates like SOS AZ say if Arizona adequately funded public education, success in the classroom would never be an issue.