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Arizona principals advocate for more school funding on Capitol Hill

Senator John McCain aide Luke Esper (left) met with Arizona school principals Denise Johnson, Stephanie Silman and Dennis Barger. (Photo courtesy of Denise Johnson/ Queen Creek Unified School District)

PHOENIX — Three Arizona school principals traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to advocate for more school funding.

Denise Johnson, principal of Newell Barney Middle School in Queen Creek, said she’d like to see more money for career and technology classes, which help prepare students for various careers, including culinary, nursing, and automotive technology.

“So many students in high school take these classes and are earning some hours towards certification,” Johnson said. “So when they leave this program, they actually are being hired by companies.”

Johnson said these career and technology classes are mostly offered for high school students. She’d like to see them expanded to the junior high schools.

Also joining Johnson were Stephanie Silman, principal of Sahuarita Middle School, and Dennis Barger, principal of Vail Academy and High School in Tucson.

The three school principals took their message to the offices of several Arizona lawmakers during their visit to Capitol Hill. They met with aides of Congressman Andy Biggs, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake.

Their trip to Washington, D.C., came as recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau ranked Arizona 48th out of 50 states in overall per pupil funding for its K-12 students.

Johnson said they also advocated for more Title I funding, which is designed for schools with high populations of students from low-income families. She said some of the funding is used to hire reading specialists who help students struggling with reading and teacher aides who help with large-size classrooms.

The third thing on her list was Title II funding, which covers professional development for teachers. She said more funding for this is important “so that we make sure that we are teaching the latest strategies or are basically learning what is new in education.”

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