Education Forum

More from this show

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce, Alliance Bank of Arizona and the Arizona Republic recently hosted the Fifth Annual Arizona Education IMPACT Forum at Chandler Center for the Arts. The conference focused on the importance of building strong communities, starting with the education system. Two of the forum participants, Jim Lundy, a founder of Alliance bank, and Craig Gilbert, assistant superintendent of secondary education for Chandler Unified School District, will tell us more about the conference and what business would like to see from our education system.

TED SIMONS: The 5th annual Arizona education impact forum was recently held at the Chandler center for the arts. Event focused on the importance of education and building strong communities and satisfying business needs. Joining us now two of the forum participants. Jim Lundy, founding president and CEO of alliance bank. Craig Gilbert, assistant superintendent of secondary education for Chandler unified school district. Good to have you both here.

JIM LUNDY: Thank you, Ted.

TED SIMONS: Thank you. Arizona education impact forum -- what went on there?

JIM LUNDY: The Chandler Chamber has been doing this for several years. Chandler is one of our best public school systems, but it is a gathering of educators, students, parents, and this year it was -- there was a real effort to get a lot of business leaders and representatives of various businesses throughout the valley to really exchange ideas about what's working, what we can do better, and what kinds of programs we ought to invest in in order to prepare our -- the work force of the future.

TED SIMONS: Did there seem to be added urgency, added attention this go-round considering all of the debate over Arizona's status and education?

CRAIG GILBERT: I think so. It was good to see all of the businesses that were there. One thing that is very important, making sure that what the business leaders are looking for and what we are doing in the education field are married and it is a seamless transition so that we're talking the same language.

TED SIMONS: Are those interests married? Have we been to divorce court in the past? What's going on there?

CRAIG GILBERT: I think they're married and have been married. I think what is missing some of the collaboration and conversation. We are all looking for the same thing.

JIM LUNDY: I think there is a raised awareness. I think everybody gets that competitiveness is sort of the new watch word in business for states, for schools. We all recognize that we're really in a globally competitive economy that is now -- I will give you a couple of quick stats that sort of represent this. I mean, as everybody knows, we lost hundreds of thousands of jobs at the -- from the peak of -- during the recession from the end of 2007 until say, 2012. Most of those jobs have been recovered now. But there is about 70,000 jobs in Arizona that are gone forever that were in existence in 2007 and are gone now. Typically lower-skilled jobs and basically in the five years of the recession as businesses tighten their belt and learn how to do things more efficiently, those jobs just vanished. And that is true all across the country. But in this country today, if you have a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate is about 1.2%. That's true for Arizona as well. While the unemployment rates over 6%. So, you know, there is a real recognition that in order to have a healthy economy, prepare our work force, we have to solve that education gap.

TED SIMONS: Are schools recognizing that as well? I notice in this forum something called the neglected majority was mentioned. A lot of focus for kids at the top and there is a lot of attention for kids at the bottom. But those kids in the middle sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Is that what is going on out there?

CRAIG GILBERT: I think at times that is what is happening. You do have students at the top, focus, high end and going to university and you have the students who may be at risk and in the middle students that are working hard, moving through the system. They have good grades, they're not causing any problems and sometimes they could get lost in the shuffle. And I think that is why it is important from the education perspective that we are making sure that we are giving access and opportunity to every student.

TED SIMONS: Is there more attention to that than maybe in the past? This neglected majority, are you seeing more attention there?

CRAIG GILBERT: I think quite a bit of attention happening in that area.

JIM LUNDY: We talked about this back stage. I think one of the things that the business leaders focused on in the forum is, you know, we need problem solvers for the future. Jamie, the -- I think he is called the education EVANGELIZER from Google. He made a great presentation. He said he cringes when he hears someone ask a kid, what are you going to be when you grow up? Because he said, you know, you're not going to train to do one job. What you really need to do is learn how to be a problem solver. Because the economy is evolving and the skills are going to have to evolve with it. And that's what we need to shift in education and that gets to the silent majority. How do we teach them to be problem solvers?

CRAIG GILBERT: It is, what problem are they going to solve? And instead of asking what do they want to do, they're asking that because the jobs of the future, we don't even know what those are. Key is to be sure that we're preparing students to be learners and self-thinkers and so that when the jobs come up, they have the basis in order to be able to move into those.

TED SIMONS: Do educators need to evolve a little bit?

CRAIG GILBERT: I think we need to always be evolving and make sure that we are not stuck within a box and we need to make sure that we understand there is different types of learners out there. Students that learn different ways. Part of the way as educators we need to find that out is engaging the students and finding out where they're at.

JIM LUNDY: I think one of the things that the forum focused on was the need to view education and education spending as an investment rather than an expense. And, you know, when we have a very low level of investment in our public schools, I think Craig mentioned this, it is perhaps hard to embrace an innovative idea, try something new if your funding level is 48th, 49th in the country, there may not be a lot of wiggle room to do something innovative. I applaud - we were listening to the guest earlier, I certainly applaud the settlement that looks like it will come to the fruition and I applaud the governor's leadership. Innovative way to look at potential funding. Use the state land trust over a 10-year period as a stop-gap to get the kind of investment that we need now to get this thing going.

TED SIMONS: Let me ask you this, when we have business leaders on to talk about education, first how important is education to attracting business? And secondly is it, education, is it more important than tax cuts?

JIM LUNDY: I absolutely believe so. I think that economic development, say, up until about a decade ago, was about, you know, low tax rates, lower regulation, speed to getting -- making sure that you had cooperation among various levels of government. I think most states we compete with are all playing that game. We have all learned those lessons. It is now really about how can you ensure that you have the work force of the future? You asked your last guest, what happens in 10 years when this temporarily funding gap closes? I don't know for sure what happens, but I can tell you this, for every 1,000 college educated students that we have, state tax revenue goes up by 2,000 apiece. Just if you make those investments now, you are going to have more general revenues to solve that problem in a decade.

TED SIMONS: Talk about comparing Arizona to other states in terms of attracting business and such. When you compare Arizona, Chandler, if you will, to other states, other areas, in terms of education, what are you seeing?

CRAIG GILBERT: I will say that education in Chandler is strong and I would say part of that is the leadership in the school district. It has been sound, it has been strong for years, staying power with the governing board as well as the superintendent. With that being said, we have a strategic plan that helps us determine everything that we do. So when we're making decisions, we are looking at how do we make sure that we educate every student. Because of that plan, I think it allows us as a district to improve all of our students and show that it -- we have strong achievement across the board with every student.

TED SIMONS: Is that a plan that you think could work in other districts, could work statewide? Do we need to see those kinds of reforms elsewhere?

CRAIG GILBERT: Well, I think it is a plan that can work with others. There are other school districts that have solid plans, similar to what we're doing. But the key to that is having a plan, and actually having a structure where you want to go. And then utilizing that structure to say is this something that we want to do? And does it fit in that plan? And is it what's best for students?

JIM LUNDY: That's a great example. For example, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas have recently set a goal to have all of their students have either a degree or a credential. 55 to 60% by 2025. Right now, Arizona doesn't have a goal and our credential or certificate rate is under 40%.

TED SIMONS: We have to stop you right there. Great discussion. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

JIM LUNDY: Thank you.

CRAIG GILBERT: Thank you.

Jim Lundy:A founder of Alliance bank,Craig Gilbert: Assistant superintendent of secondary education for Chandler Unified School District

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024
airs April 18

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates as part of ‘AZ Votes 2024’

Earth Day Challenge graphic with the Arizona PBS logo and an illustration of the earth

Help us meet the Earth Day Challenge!

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 12

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

The Capital building with text reading: Circle on Circle: Robert Lowell's D.C.
May 2

An evening with ‘Poetry in America’

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: