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Arizona education department debuts new campaign after enrollment drop

(Pixabay photo)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Education launched a new campaign encouraging parents to enroll their children in public education following a significant drop in enrollment during a year complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday that about 38,000 children statewide were not enrolled in the 2020-21 school year compared to the 2019-20 school year.

“We are concerned about the quality of education that those students are receiving when they are not enrolled in school,” Hoffman said.

“We know that this is a time when we need to be rebuilding that trust and we are looking forward to having a strong start to the next school year with our students back in the classroom.”

The “Ready for School AZ” campaign includes a website and hotline that provides information for parents on how to enroll their children and other helpful resources.

Radio, TV and social media advertisements will also be part of the campaign. Hoffman said the ads will showcase the benefit of public education, such as developing leadership skills, collaborative skills and providing other opportunities such as learning a musical instrument.

“Really highlighting what our public schools offer that are maybe more difficult to achieve at home,” Hoffman said.

“What we are hoping is that by having this ready for school campaign going through the summer months and giving parents and families the resources they need to best inform their decision making, then we are hopeful that in August when we have access to enrollment data for the new school year, we are hoping that’s when we see the spike and more of a return to normal.”

Hoffman believes a trend of parents holding their young children back a year from starting school is what contributed to the drop in enrollment.

“The most significant declines in enrollment were for the youngest grades, so that kindergarten age range is where we saw the biggest drop,” Hoffman said. “We do think that was families making the decision to keep their kids home for an extra year.”

Hoffman added the lower enrollment tended to be in communities of color, along with tribal nations.

Door-to-door advertising will not be part of the campaign, but Hoffman said Gov. Doug Ducey’s office allocated federal funds and contracted with an organization that is doing door-to-door. The department of education is providing districts and charters with information on how to apply to be part of those targeted districts.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Tasler contributed to this report.

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