PHOENIX - Arizona's public schools are getting a much-needed image boost with a TV commercial paid for by corporations.
Arizona Education Project, a nonprofit corporation, produces the commercial. The organization has three women listed as directors, but their charity is heavily funded by business heavyweights like Pinnacle West and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"They know that you need a robust, strong school system to have a strong economy," said Matthew Benson, Arizona Education Project's spokesman. "These two things go hand in hand."
ABC15 looked into the commercial's claims, finding the statements were true but lacked context.
The commercial says there was a nearly $1.5 billion increase in state funding for schools in the last three years. However, the same schools suffered even deeper cuts during the recession.
"Teachers in our schools are miracle workers," said Save Our Schools spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker. "We have more than $1 billion less in our schools today than we did a decade ago."
Another claim was that Arizona students lead the nation in math and reading improvement. Students in select grades did make major gains, but the same tests show Arizona's kids still fall behind the national average.
The Arizona Teachers Academy helps students graduate college free of debt, but critics say the program is an inadequate solution to a problem underfunding salaries.
"The reason we need to come up with creative ways to get teachers to do the job is because people in Arizona know that teachers don't get paid enough," said Penich-Thacker.
Education improvements are expected to be a big issue in the 2018 Arizona gubernatorial election, but the makers of the commercial say their message is not political.
"This is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit," said Benson. "There's no campaign tie to this effort. There's no legislative tie. It's purely public education."