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Mayors’ group wants business leaders, elected officials to talk education

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PHOENIX – Motivated by the defeat of Proposition 204, a group of mayors wants to promote discussion about school funding and reforms.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said Monday that the group plans to meet with business leaders, school boards and educators to come up with nonpartisan solutions to education problems.

Although the task of funding education belongs to lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer, Stanton said he hopes to bring the right people to the table to come up with solutions to present to the Legislature and the governor’s office.

“We embrace the new challenges,” Stanton said. “We just want to make sure that our schools have the resources to get the job done.”

Smith said the mayors would like to bring together stakeholders to come up with ways to make sure schools are adequately financed.

“Hopefully we can bring this out of the partisan political arena into the problem-solving arena,” he said.

Smith said that mayors have a unique perspective to contribute to the discussion.

“While we don’t run school districts, we certainly see the impact that our successes and our failures in the education field have upon our communities and on our ability to compete in the new world economy,” he said.

Last month, Stanton, Smith and eight others formed the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable, aiming to help produce students who are prepared for college. A news conference Monday expanded that effort to school funding and reforms.

Business leaders from both sides of the Proposition 204 debate said they support the mayors’ efforts.

Tom Franz, president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, said he hopes this will be the start of an ongoing dialogue about how to implement reforms effectively.

“I think it’s a place where we do need to put politics aside,” he said.

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, said the mayors’ involvement in talking about reforms, like Arizona’s Common Core Standards, is a big deal.

“This is a very significant undertaking, and we need all of the mayors across Arizona working with our friends in the Legislature and with the governor’s office and with the business community to make sure we implement these standards in an ideal fashion,” he said.

Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, said that although his group was against Proposition 204 it will be active in the discussions on improving education.

“It’s an economic development problem,” he said.