New group portrays Arizona education system upbeat


A new nonprofit organization backed by business groups is running ads on television and online to put a positive spin on the state of education in Arizona.

The Arizona Education Project, which is supported by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, utility company Pinnacle West, among other contributors, wants to tell “the other side of the story” to counteract negative voices that dominate the education debate in Arizona, group spokesman Matthew Benson told the Arizona Capitol Times.

“Arizona schools aren’t perfect, but we’re making huge strides in the state,” Benson said.

In the first week, the group will spend six figures on local, cable and digital TV ads, then assess from there how much to spend more and where, he said.

The group has set up a website highlighting the positives of Arizona’s K-12 system.

Spending on Arizona schools plummeted during the Great Recession, and the state has yet to regain the spending levels before the economy collapses. Arizona schools also rank among the lowest in the country for teacher compensation.

A TV advertising which took place on January 22 is bragging about state improvements in education spending and outcomes

An announcement from the Arizona Education Project, a new nonprofit organization supported by business groups, notes the state’s positive education news, such as increased funding and educational outcomes. (Screenshot from YouTube video)

“What if I told you that there is a state that has increased education funding by almost $ 1.5 billion in the past three years?” Said the ad.

He touts Arizona’s math and reading scores, as well as the Teachers’ Academy which offers free college education to prospective teachers, as long as they teach in the state for a few years.

“That state is Arizona. There is a lot more to do, but Arizona schools are making progress, ”the ad concludes.

Joe Thomas, chief of the Arizona Education Association, the teachers’ union, said most of the negative comments he heard around Arizona schools were about the legislature and the governor’s policies. Thomas said his group is not saying that schools are not doing a good job, but rather that elected officials must do better.

“I call it realism,” he said, adding that the statistics on education funding back him up.

Thomas admits his group is reacting negatively to elected officials who do not support classrooms and said they will continue to do so.

“If you ever feel (we’ve been) negative, it’s probably because we’re pointing fingers at you,” he said.

Benson said that as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, the group had no connection to any candidate, campaign or legislative effort. Instead, this is a public education campaign to tell the people of Arizona that their schools are producing many things they can be proud of, including performance, improvements, and choice of. school, Benson said.

It’s great that Arizona has some of the best schools in the country, Thomas said, but all children in the state should have access to a quality public education no matter where they live.

Knowing that the money behind the ad campaign is not public money, Thomas said companies might instead donate to struggling schools, rather than “propagate a dire situation.” Teachers will see the ads and find them offensive, Thomas said.

“I hope a public relations campaign isn’t all we’re going to do to stop teachers from Google searching for teaching positions in Las Vegas,” he said.

Benson said the group had nothing to do with Gov. Doug Ducey’s re-election campaign because it is a non-profit organization. As to whether the announcement, which echoes Ducey’s arguments over education, could boost the gubernatorial bid for re-election this year, Benson said it was not for him to speculate.

He said the effort is led by Arizona moms and supported by Arizona businesses. The group’s file with the Arizona Corporation Commission shows three women as directors: Jessica Connelly, Amy Paul and Melissa Luzader.

Here’s the full list of Arizona Education Project donors:

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Pinnacle West Capital Corp, the parent company of Arizona Public Service

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Tucson

Douglas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Sierra Vista Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Ambos Nogales Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Arizona Accommodation and Tourism Association

America Service Group


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