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It’s a new year — a time to celebrate, reflect on the year that has gone and plan for the one that is coming. Beyond personal and professional plans, Flagstaff must consider what we want our community to become. Where do we want to be next year? A decade from now? But we can’t answer that question, or plan for it, without considering how we can support the students of today. In 2020, what do we want for our schools?

There are already so many great things happening in our community. Schools such as Puente de Hozho Elementary are going above and beyond to ensure that all of their students get the best experience possible. Puente has applied to become part of the International Baccalaureate program. This would make them one of only three elementary IB World Schools in the state.

Did you know that Northern Arizona University’s childcare vouchers are helping students to balance family and education? And it’s ensuring that more of our youth have access to a high-quality early learning setting. And Coconino Community College, among many other adult education offerings, has seen great success with their Certified Apartment Maintenance Technician program.

At the same time, the dedicated team from LAUNCH Flagstaff is working with community leaders, business executives, and others to ensure excellence in education at all levels. They’re taking advantage of the data provided by the Arizona Education Progress Meter to help identify benchmarks and set goals in advancing a culture of world-class education for every child in Flagstaff. One of the group’s projects includes a pilot program to increase access to high-quality, full-day, year-round preschool for youth not already enrolled elsewhere.

Launched in 2016 by Expect More Arizona and the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Progress Meter houses state and local data and outlines eight broadly supported goals for key education indicators. While we have made some progress in each of these key areas, we’re not moving the needle fast enough to reach the 2030 targets.

An annual poll of likely voters commissioned by Expect More Arizona has revealed that education is the top issue for the fifth year in a row. Three quarters of voters agree that all of education, from the early years through college, needs more funding, and most agree that the quality of our schools impacts the strength of our communities.

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As a business leader, I see firsthand the immediate and long-term impacts of the quality of our education system. When there aren’t enough qualified workers locally, we recruit out-of-state candidates. Even with a high-salary job on the line, many are reluctant to move their families to a state with a reputation for education like ours. We must work together to ensure an educated community to ensure continued economic gains.

Raising the quality of education will lift us all, as we have more prepared workforce, cut down on crime and increase tax revenue. The Flagstaff community has always been committed to supporting our schools, and we must push for continued investments.

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Tim Kinney is the President and CEO of Kinney Construction Services Inc, which serves the commercial industry, including the institutional, health care, entertainment, retail, industrial, hospitality, merchandising, financial, and real estate development sectors. He sits on a variety of boards, including Arizona Forward, the NAU Foundation and Northern Arizona Leadership Alliance.

Jennifer Hernandez is the Northern Arizona community engagement manager of Expect More Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization bringing communities together to create positive change in education at all levels.

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