In case you missed it from the Phoenix Business Journal. Save Our Schools AZ is, by far, one of the most effective grassroots organizations in the State of Arizona. HighGround supports their efforts to provide a quality education for all students and build our future workforce. Chuck Coughlin is honored to serve on the SOSAZ board and our team is working with them and other education leaders to help develop a pilot program to support students and improve education outcomes at underserved schools throughout the state.
Arizona’s Classroom Crisis Needs a Business Plan
By Doug Guilbeau and Geoffrey Mobisson
For many years, we worked day and night to turn an idea on a bar napkin into a leading digital marketing, eCommerce and IoT technology company called Levementum. With nearly 165 employees across seven states, we helped develop technology solutions for some of the biggest consumer brands in the world.
After a successful exit, we started E&I Ventures, a venture capital firm, to invest in the next wave of entrepreneurs and innovators who can build new companies and opportunities here in Arizona. Our state has the potential to be an economic powerhouse, but years of deep cuts to education funding could cripple that momentum. These statistics must be a wakeup call to the business community:
- Arizona has the highest teacher turnover rate in the nation. Nearly 3x the national average
- Our student-to-guidance counselor rate is 905-1– nearly four times higher than the recommended ratio.
- 70,000 Arizona students go to school every day without a permanent teacher.
- 3,400 classrooms in Arizona do not have a certified teacher.
Make no mistake, Arizona has a classroom crisis, and its impact on our future workforce is undeniable. If not immediately addressed, the ripple effects will do long- term damage to Arizona’s sunny business climate. We have put more burdens on teachers while paying them less than almost every other state. Do the math. Any job creator knows what happens when employees are underpaid and overworked. Good people leave. Quality suffers. Companies fail. The downward cycle is affecting our kids – especially the ones who live in zip codes without Teslas or gated communities. We cannot let this happen.
We believe the key to the American Dream is having great, neighborhood schools. Instead of whining from the sidelines, we have joined the leadership of Save Our Schools AZ (SOSAZ), a powerful, grassroots movement. This non-partisan coalition is a group of dedicated, get-it-done doers, whose army of volunteers gathered 110,000 signatures in less than 90 days and last November, defeated Proposition 305 with over 65 percent of the statewide vote; it was a ballot initiative that would have drained millions of dollars from Arizona district and charter schools every year. This very issue is what caught our attention and made us realize Arizona’s business leaders need to be speaking up for public education.
The solution to the classroom crisis is not complicated. Arizona needs a sustainable funding source for education dollars that exists in good times and bad. The hard part is having the political will to convince policy makers – Democrats and Republicans – that schools need more funding now. Translation: this could require a tax increase. Before the naysayers start barking, think of the massive return on investment – more kids graduating from college, millions more in tax revenues, and higher per capita incomes. A vast majority of voters agree with us.
Many politicians like to say, “we need to run government like a business.” We agree. Smart, savvy companies do not starve their most important assets (teachers, counselors, staff) and expect to be successful. They invest strategically for long-term success. This is not be a partisan issue. This is about teachers, students, families and our communities. This is a problem we can solve to ensure Arizona’s best days are ahead of us.
We can do this. We must do this. Please join us.
Doug Guilbeau and Geoffrey co-founded Levementum, a Chandler-based digital marketing, eCommerce, and IoT company. They now run E&I Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on early stage software and cloud technology startups in the Southwest.