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This is Why We Stand

We have a phrase at Stand for Children that we have used over the last 25 years. Every one of us has a reason for being here – a concept of “Why I Stand.”  

But this year, this past month, has made me more grateful than I thought I could be for our mission, and the infrastructure that supports it. Everything that we are doing RIGHT NOW is an example of Why I Stand. 

Our amazing Family Engagement team launched into action, supporting families on the ground with (so far) almost 600 phone calls, visits, and support. And our Government Affairs team provided support to staff at ADE regarding school closures, advocated for the “skinny” budget and recess at the legislature, and is working to ensure new Federal programs are implemented well.  

Meanwhile, we are developing our next phase of responsiveness. As people everywhere realize how critical schools and teachers are -- not just for education, but for development, socialization, wellbeing, care and more -- we can help shape that groundswell of appreciation into an enduring movement focused on systemic changes to close achievement and opportunity gaps. For our parents, our communities, and our state, our work has never been more important. 

Not only I am deeply grateful for our team that has been working tirelessly to address both parent needs and policy issues, I am also so appreciative for our state philanthropy and policy leaders who have established guidelines, resources, and collective working groups to keep everyone connected -- demonstrating how deeply everyone cares.  

I’d like to share some of that with you, in this edition of In the Trenches, as well as an update from the capitol on the recently signed “school closures” bill and the “skinny” budget. And, if you haven’t heard yet, Arizona schools are officially closed for the rest of the year. 

We could all be holed up in our homes right now, focusing on our own families and needs. Instead, I’ve seen an overwhelming positive response, focused on the most vulnerable members of our community – our children.  

It has lifted my heart to see us all STAND. 

What We're Hearing From Members

Our most important first step to address the changes in our families’ lives was to check in with our entire list of active parents. We currently have more than 1,600 parents. So far, we’ve called 600 of them to see how they are doing and learn what their needs are. Our next step is to follow-up with specific, personalized resources for each family.

Through the calls so far we’ve heard two key themes. First, general concerns about basic needs: baby products, medicine, and school supplies are hard to come by, or very, very expensive. Second, parents in low -income communities have deep educational concerns: They don’t know how to teach their kids using the packets or whatever materials they are given; they don’t have educational materials to work with their kids in general; access to technology for online learning is very difficult; and, they aren’t sure of the best way to communicate with their schools or districts.

In response, we’ve been providing what specific resources we can, connecting families to information or tools to meet their individual needs, and linking to their school district when appropriate.

For example, several of our partners have opened their resources to the entire Stand family for free, and we are working to sign up our parent members.

FASTalk allows schools and districts to communicate with any caregiver in their home language – no matter what it is. In addition to English, we’ve helped schools communicate with almost 900 Arizona parents in Arabic, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Portuguese. Families receive weekly curriculum-aligned activities sent via text in their specified language. The activities are fun and easy to do at home. We can also insert specific messages from Stand, or their school district.

SpringFour helps connect individuals with services and assistance in their community. Using just a zip code, the SpringFour tool provides instant, local results that can help families find affordable childcare and health insurance. SpringFour currently offers information on more than 10,000 social service, government, and community-based organizations.

We’ve also been quickly able to connect families to internet access through Cox Communication’s Connect2Compete program. We’ve been grateful for this partnership over the last couple of years, and now they have completely waived the fees for low income families with children in schools for two months. Thank you, Cox Communications!

Stand Arizona’s COVID-19 Parent Support 

We have set up direct communications tools to more efficiently connect with parents since we can no longer meet in our live workshops. These include setting up a homework hotline, conducting Facebook Live events and recorded webinars to share district updates, school closures, resources, best practices on remote learning, and how to avoid out of school learning loss. We will continue to build out relevant topics. 

We also have two resource hubs available – one from our local office, and one from our national office – available in English and Spanish.

Continued Focus on Family Literacy

While families are spending time together at home, there is an important opportunity to practice family literacy skills. We’ve extended our traditional “school break” reading challenges and are promoting them online, in email, and over the phone. Parents can take a picture of the reading log with their phones, and text it back to us. We’ll put a special prize in the mail for the student! 

Parent workshops such as Why Reading Matters, Using a Digital Library, and How to Read with your Child, are being recorded in English and Spanish and will be sent to parents in several formats. 

Book distribution will continue by mail for the families already enrolled in our partnership with Unite for Literacy, and the Unite for Literacy Digital Library has hundreds of books children can choose from. It even has an audio function in multiple languages! We are training parents how to use it through recorded webinars and Facebook Live events. 

State Advocacy and Support 

We’ve been watching both state and federal policy and programmatic changes for their short- and long-term impacts on Arizona’s education landscape, particularly for Arizona’s most vulnerable students. We’ve been participating in a state advisory group to implement federal aid and EBT cards for school meals and in philanthropic advisory groups such as Valley of the Sun United Way, and the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative (part of the Arizona Grantmakers Forum). We are also researching the potential impact of the digital divide and equity issues on the achievement gap, and how they relate to our established priorities such as better supporting English Language Learners, and the teacher shortage. 

Working from home has not meant the Stand team is working less – on the contrary, we are on overdrive reaching out to parents, community leaders, and school districts to fulfill our mission: To ensure that all students receive a high quality, relevant education, especially those whose boundless potential is overlooked and under-tapped because of their income, skin color, zip code, first language, or disability.  

It’s why WE STAND. 

Budget Certainty in Uncertain Times

Last week, the Governor signed a much-needed school closure bill that was unanimously passed by the legislature. This will help our communities deal with the unintended consequences of school closures while ensuring our schools’ funding remains unharmed. This bipartisan legislation provides employment stability for teachers and other school employees, and it requires schools to offer alternative learning opportunities. 

Also, as you might have already heard — lawmakers approved an $11.8 billion “skinny budget” to fund our agencies and provide some much-needed stability. This “skinny budget” simply takes last year’s budget and adjusts for inflation.  

The budget breakdown:  

  • The FY21 budget does not include any increases above FY20 except for caseload growth, inflation, and contractual obligations. 

  • Formula funding for schools increased by approximately $400 million, which includes funds for annual inflation increase, enrollment growth, the final teacher compensation increase, and this year’s portion of the additional assistance restoration. 

In addition, it also creates the Office of Crisis and Contingency Safety Net fund in the governor’s office and appropriates $50 million to the Fund. Monies may only be used by the governor during a state of emergency for the following types of economic assistance:  

  • Housing assistance 

  • Services for the homeless  

  • Assistance for small businesses with less than 50 employees, nonprofits, and healthcare providers 

  • Food banks 

It’s worth noting that this legislative session has not adjourned but has instead decided to recess. So, there is still a chance that lawmakers could go back to the legislature and work on unfinished business. But, in the meantime, lawmakers have headed home.  

Again, a deep thank you to all of you who are leaning in to weather this storm. You are all critical to Arizona staying vibrant, healthy and strong.  

Standing with you,

Rebecca, Stacey, Mary, Jay, Liliana, Katherine, Georgina, and Atenas 
The Stand for Children Arizona Team  

Stand for Children is a non-profit education advocacy organization focused on ensuring all students receive a high quality, relevant education, especially those whose boundless potential is overlooked and under-tapped because of their skin color, zip code, first language, or disability.

In order to fulfill our mission, Stand for Children, Inc., our 501(c)4 organization, performs all advocacy and lobbying activities while the Stand for Children Leadership Center, our 501(c)3 organization, manages our parent and family education and engagement programs as well as Stand’s public awareness campaigns.
 
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