In 2012, Stanton formed the Arizona Mayors' Education Roundtable to bring together mayors from across the state to answer the question “What can cities do to make a difference in the education system.” Supported by the Helios Foundation and WestEd, the Roundtable produced the 2014 report “The Economic Losses of High School Dropouts and Disconnected Youth: Evidence from Across Arizona,” which shed light on the dire challenges facing our state and renewed the mayors’ focus on opportunity youth. The report showed that Phoenix had nearly 100,000 opportunity youth, so Stanton pulled together public, nonprofit and corporate partners to confront the issue head on.
Through a public-private partnership with ASU and Starbucks, Phoenix partnered with the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative to host a job fair in downtown Phoenix targeted at opportunity youth. Nearly 2,000 young people were reached – and more than 500 received immediate job offers by the 25 national coalition companies in attendance. The nationwide partnership brought about the local Opportunities for Youth Initiative, a partnership between the City of Phoenix, Arizona State University and the Maricopa County Education Service Agency.
Through the City's relationship with Starbucks, the company has since built a Starbucks Community Store in central Phoenix, which serves as a meeting space and training center in partnership with Chicanos Por La Causa and Arizona Center for Youth Resources.
Phoenix launched ReEngage Phoenix through College Depot to help these young people get back into school. The City also led the development of the Reengagement Center network, made up of nonprofits that aligned practices and data capturing to better reconnect these youth.
Through this collaboration and other community efforts, the number of opportunity youth in Phoenix dropped by 26 percent in 2017 – the most significant drop in the country.
A Call to Increase Education Funding
Stanton recognizes that improving public education in Phoenix demands more resources from the state legislature, and he has championed efforts to increase education funding during his time as mayor. He made a pledge to voters that this was just a first step in fixing a broken education system, and continues to advocate for increased funding.
Investing in our Teachers
In his 2017 State of the City, Stanton called for increasing teacher pay — describing current compensation for public school teachers "an insult." He specifically called on business leaders to join local leaders in fighting for our teachers and our public schools.
Through the Principal for a Day event, Stanton hopes to continue to bring attention to the need for greater investment in public schools and higher teacher pay. This experience provides leaders in the business community with a deeper understanding of our current education system and the challenges teachers face due to limited resources and growing demands. Stanton continues to make this issue a priority – not just for Phoenicians but for all Arizonans.
Initiatives for Education Success
Initiatives such as Read On Phoenix, AARP Experience Corps, Little Free Libraries and Great Start put resources toward our youngest students to ensure early education success. A new initiative, Phoenix Counts on Math, will focus on helping students excel in mathematics – preparing them for further education and careers in STEM fields.
In 2015, Stanton answered President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge by creating a local action plan to engage 100 community stakeholders and find ways to improve literacy, learning and job training for boys and young men of color. Dozens of community leaders from school districts, faith-based organizations, nonprofits and city departments are committed to developing and implementing a plan to create more opportunities for these youth.