It was a beautiful and hot morning in Phoenix last Thursday at the start of day four of Secretary Arne Duncan’s back-to-school Strong Start, Bright Future, bus tour across the Southwest. The heat didn’t deter a day full of excitement and inspiration with stops in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Yuma, Ariz.
Duncan got an early start at the Bret Tarver Education Complex where he visited classrooms—even receiving a daily weather forecast from an early learner—and then participated in a town hall to discuss the President’s Preschool for All proposals and the need for high-quality education.
The town hall focused on the proven benefits of high-quality early education. For every $1 invested in high-quality preschool, taxpayers save an average of $7 in future costs due to reductions in remedial education costs, increased labor productivity, and a reduction in crime. “Education is the best crime prevention tool,” Aaron Carreon-Ainsa, Phoenix’s city prosecutor, said during the panel discussion.
The back-to-school bus kept on rolling and made a stop in Scottsdale for a meeting with tribal leaders to talk about the federal role in strengthening tribal education. Over the last four years, the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to increase collaboration with tribal government and communities regarding Native students.
The Secretary addressed the negative impact sequestration is having on Native American communities. “They’re feeling it out here. DC let them down,” Duncan tweeted following the event.
The day continued in Yuma, Ariz., with a visit to the Yuma Community Food Bank where Duncan joined more than 400 volunteers who had gathered to fill backpacks with food to be delivered to disadvantaged students for the weekend. Yuma is home to the highest unemployment rate in the nation and Yuma County has the highest food insecurity rate in the state. It was an important reminder that students who show up to school hungry have a difficult time learning.
Following the Food Bank visit, Duncan and team stopped at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for a town hall and discussion on the importance of supporting military-connected students and their families.
Military-connected students face unique challenges such as parents who deploy often and multiple moves through during their K-12 years. Abagail, a Yuma High School senior who has two parents connected to the military, told the audience that she has moved 11 times during her school years.
Listen to Secretary Duncan wrap up day four of the back-to-school tour below.
Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.
Cameron Brenchley is director of digital strategy and blogged and tweeted his way from the bus during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.