>>Welcome to this “Cronkite News” special, I’m Chloe Nordquist, thanks for joining us. Tonight a look at challenges facing schools across Arizona and the creative ways teachers are finding solutions and inspiring children in the classroom.>>A school voucher program that was once offered to just a select few students could soon expand to at least half of all kids in Arizona. The Senate Bill has already passed and is now in the house awaiting a vote. “Cronkite News” reporter Amanda Kukkola explains.>>The point of clarification I think is that nobody disagrees, at least that I know of, with the idea of ESAs. Some kids really can’t be best served in a traditional public school. ESAs were intended to be for them, to get a really specialized education.>>Senate Bill 1279 would grant vouchers to nearly half of all Arizona school students, allowing them to attend private or charter schools with taxpayer dollars. The sponsor of the bill Debbie Lesko says this bill isn’t intended to hurt public schools. It’s simply meant to be used as an alternative.>>It gives 90% of the funding of what the public school would have received and gives the money to the parents, to the parent can use that money no other educational choices for their student.>>But it won’t cover the entire tuition cost, causing some to be concerned only wealthy families would be able to take advantage of program, and that there won’t be enough.>>So a parent gets a debit card with the equivalent of 90% of what the State would normally pay in student funding. Without any accountability, we’ve already seen that the system gets abused.>>The average scholarship amount is $5400. Arizona schoolteacher of the year Christine marsh knows that’s not enough for private schools.>>To get public school funding up to an adequate level so all kids’ needs can be met appropriately, instead of funneling money to parents whose kids can afford to then go somewhere else.>>In Phoenix, Amanda Kukkola, “Cronkite News.”>>The House delayed that vote yesterday and is expected to take action in the next two weeks.>>The transition from military life to college life is different for every person. That’s why one of the Arizona veterans centers are so important. “Cronkite News” reporter Sydney Glenn found out what Arizona State University does for veterans and the man who’s inspired so many.>>They want a real experience, not a DMV experience here.>>Director Steve Borden says what the Pat Tillman Veterans Center has to offer.>>We know a student engaged on campus has a much higher likelihood of succeeding. It’s dedicated to help staff find a niche where they can be engaged on campus.>>In addition to standard duties the Tillman Center offers jobs and helps students transition.>>This is the first time to get a job outside of the military. I want to start working here, meeting new people, networking with people, hanging out on the weekend, getting to know other veterans. That felt real good.>>While also paying tribute to the inspirational namesake, No. 42 Pat Tillman.>>Not only an exemplary athlete and exemplary in service to his country but a great student.>>I understand he joined the military and he also was an NFL player, that says a lot about him.>>Beyond veterans, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center supports active duty military and family members. In Tempe, Sydney Glenn, “Cronkite News.”>>Arizona State University has a Pat Tillman Veterans Center on each of its four campuses where they serve more than 4,000 people a semester.>>With the continuing teacher shortage in Arizona districts are forced to find new ways to get teachers in the classroom. Amanda Kukkola shows us how districts are trying to sell themselves to new teachers.>>Thank you, the two words students a say to sum up. Appreciation for their teacher but the appreciation doesn’t seem to be enough. The need for teachers is growing in Arizona. The Anderson Preparatory Academy is one of many schools across the Valley that’s had to struggle to fill positions.>>This industry is very hard to hire.>>Adriana Brannan is the director of academy and says with class enrollment higher than before, the want for more teachers has turned into a need. Having a family with three children, Adrianna understands why hiring is so difficult.>>There’s no benefits, really hard especially for a family to not get any kind of benefits. They don’t offer anything and the pay is really, really low.>>With these drawbacks teaches have been leaving Arizona for midwestern pay. Average salaries in Minnesota are up to $20,000 more than in Arizona.>>The problem with teachers leaving the classroom after just a few years is a problem all across the state.>>So Brannan and her staff have turned to new ways to recruit and retain.>>The academy has hired nearly a third of their staff by using social media and other online sites. With applicants being able to send a quick resume through email or scan an application with the click of a button, the academy says the hiring process has been a lot easier and quicker.>>We just put ads outside everywhere we can. Craigslist, indeed, we have to have six months of experience at least, fingerprint card, high school diploma, T.B. test, and just love to be around kids.>>Be around kids, help them learn and hopefully remain in Arizona. In Phoenix, Amanda Kukkola, “Cronkite News.”>>Books are something many of us take for granted. Literacy advocates say in low-income communities there’s only one book for every 300 kids. “Cronkite News” reporter Lauren Michaels shows us how companies are getting involved to change that.>>They are called Little Free Libraries and they are popping up across the Valley with about 30 already registered. Local companies are getting involved to help increase that number by the end of the year.>>At first glance it may seem like another woodworking project. But for Phoenix high school teacher Don Krug building his own Little Free Libraries means so much more because of his firsthand experience.>>The kids come into school. Because they haven’t had the exposure to books and haven’t been read to, they come in below where they should be at for comprehension.>>This is Krug’s way of making a change outside his classroom.>>As a teacher you’re always trying reach out. Like I said earlier this is an opportunity to reach out to a whole different group of kids, and I get to do it through my hobby. It’s like a win-win-win.>>The local wood supply company is among many helping to build community libraries. Woodworkers source is a family owned business which has created a competition.>>This gives me a chance to build something for our community at large that others can enjoy, thousands can enjoy throughout the entire year.>>A nonprofit in the Valley has helped enlist the local support of Petsmart, Shutterfly to help others give children easy access to books.>>Kids are showing up in kindergarten unprepared to learn. They don’t have those basic early literacy skills that are so important.>>The goal, to build 100 Little Free Libraries by the end of this year.>>We have a little kit that these organization it is use as a team building opportunity and a way to give back. Every single library that’s come back has been its own unique almost piece of artwork.>>Once a Little Free Library is complete it’s placed in a neighborhood like this one. Children can take one or return one.>>Krug has already donated his little wooden library.>>Literacy is so important for people to be successful in the world. I just feel so fortunate. I am where I am today because I know how to read.>>And there are more than 36,000 little free libraries around the world. Check out our story on cronkitenews.azpbs.org so see if there’s a registered library near you. Lauren Michaels, “Cronkite News.”>>As digital music technology continues to advance the possibilities are endless for musicians to create knew and exciting audio experiences. “Cronkite News” reporter Audrey Weil shows us that digital music is about more than just sound.>>New to Arizona State University, professor Lauren Hayes brought with her the practice of multisensory music, which means adding visuals and movement to digital sound to create an all encompassing experience for performers and listeners.>>Nothing is as it seems for professor Lauren Hayes. That’s because anything can be an instrument.>>I got this for about $8. It’s a generic controller.>>All part of her work to create a multisensory experience with digital sound.>>I started performing with laptops. I would click a button and hear a sound. So I started to look at ways to find meaning in my actions and the sound I was producing.>>This may look like an ordinary couch but it’s actually vibrating to the sensations of the music playing in the room, one of Hayes’ many multisensory projects.>>She brought her own music software connected to that video controller, wears an armband where she receives feedback while controlling. Instruments that look much different from the classical piano she grew up playing. Hayes says it’s not that far off.>>Anyone who plays an instrument knows you get constant sensory feedback you get through your body. Whether it’s the forest on a violin string or piano keys which constantly inform the performer.>>In addition to being able to translate that sound to an audience or even other performers.>>As a musician and especially like an electronic musician, it’s really difficult to get like — to know the history of digital sound and how electronic sound has evolved and all the different things that have come out of it. Musicians all over the world are working on similar technologies. Prior to coming to ASU Hayes worked in the U.K. using her instruments to bring music to people with sensory difficulties.>>A local nonprofit is shaking things up in schools. I got to spend some time with the Be Kind People project and learn how they are getting students on their feet to stop bullying.>>What does hip-hop have to do with bullying?>>They hear don’t do this, don’t, don’t, don’t. We believe we can give them the same message but give it to them in a positive way.>>You’ll never heard them use the word bully in an assembly.>>But the Be Kind People project is using hip-hop to stop bullying in its tracks.>>Give them that wow factor at first so we gain those cool points so they listen us to.>>They travel from school to school recognizing teachers and teaching students to be kind.>>We tell principals ahead of time that might happen, they are all on their feet moving around at once? There’s no way.>>Sure enough, it happened. Even Superintendent Diane Douglas stopped by to see how the Be Kind People was making a difference.>>To see them share that enthusiasm with our children, you know, they can grow up to be whatever they want and follow their own dreams. And it all starts here with very positive messages.>>When you see the look on the kids’ faces and the teachers’ faces and they realize this is something that’s so simple but yet it’s something that is so impactful.>>Ultimately they show kids and teachers — kids that thanking teachers is important and being kind is being cool.>>Each though they are based out of Arizona the Be Kind People project is taking their message national.>>Arizona’s top spellers melt for a shown in Phoenix. “Cronkite News” reporter Gilbert Cordova met with one contestant as she geared up to hopefully take home a big win.>>Good afternoon, and welcome to the Arizona Educational Foundation’s 2016 Arizona Spelling Bee.>>With the final 27 best young spellers eagerly awaiting to be the last one at the mic to represent the state.>>B-a-b-a, baba.>>Nicola Ferguson’s preparation for such a task was a bit unusual.>>I didn’t really study as much as I did in previous years because I have more to do now that I’m in middle school.>>Nicola had a lot of exception.>>Spellers came and went as the bee went on for hours. Words that seemed easy enough were sometimes the most tricky.>>Bambino.>>Sounds correct.>>Parents hoped not to hear that daunting ding.>>As the rounds go on you calm down.>>That’s what happened as Nicola approached the final round.>>Recumbent, r-e-c-u-m-b-e-n-t, recumbent. And with that, Nicola won.>>I was surprised I did manage to win it. I didn’t expect it at all.>>That’s very exciting, she finished on the top. It’s still hard to fathom.>>Also hard to fathom, Nicola has to do it all over again.>>In Phoenix, Gilbert Cordova, “Cronkite News.”>>A broadcast of the bee will be here on Arizona PBS.>>With tax day quickly approaching are you still looking to receive money back from the state.>>Mayor Greg Stanton stopped by the uptown Wednesday market in Phoenix today to serve up some free coffee and inform people about the “Kids Are Missing Out” campaign.>>Retail politics at its best.>>Free coffee a sales pitch and a handshake from the mayor.>>The after school en richment property taxes are some of the best experiences kids can have and we can only do it if we can fund it.>>Classrooms are not a social place. After school activity is where you get with your peers, your friends, tremendous, tremendous engagement in our school system.>>The goal is the most deserving schools and students receive those tax credit donations.>>After school enrichment is one of the best ways to make sure they have the best overall educational experience.>>For more information and to see the full list of those targeted School Districts, visit kidsaremissingout.org. Sydney Glenn, “Cronkite News.”>>In Arizona Native Americans have the lowest graduation rates of all ethnicities. It’s why Carlyle Begay was in Washington this week saying change is absolutely necessary.>>Lauren Clark in our Washington bureau has details of the plan he’s urging Washington to pass.>>What Arizona state senator Carlyle Begay asked a student what he wanted to do one day, the student said, why does it matter and why do you care.>>This despair is a product of being abandoned by the government for generations. Half of Native American students attending a federally run school in Arizona never receive their high school diploma.>>We should look at options to give them an alternative.>>An alternative like Senator McCain’s proposal. It allows Native American student to use federal dollars to attend any school of their choice including private schools, online curricula and each tooters.>>Why should students not have the option to be empowered, not have the option of better quality options available to them.>>This bill isn’t without its critics. Some worry it’ll severely hurt funds for the bureau of Indian education schools if students decide to leave.>>A number of our schools are in remote locations.>>Making it difficult for students to even find another school within their area. Still, Begay argues the status quo is not acceptable.>>Today it is time for us to explore what is education today in our Native American communities.>>In Washington, Lauren Clark, “Cronkite News.”>>For nearly a century Phoenix Indian school functioned as a federally run Native American boarding school for Native American children, separating them from their families and culture in an effort to sim asim lit them into society.>>The doors to this Indian school building have been closed to the public for 26 years. This time next year they will be open to everyone when the site is restored as a cultural center.>>Steele Indian School Park is still and quiet now. But the new center hopes to bring back a vibrancy that hasn’t existed since the school was opened.>>It’s going to be a high school reunion super sized.>>And the main goal?>>To look back and acknowledge that painful past and also realize we can come back to the spot and make it our own, have events here that will celebrate who we are.>>Visitors can see Native American connections is leading the project with much of the funding coming from the City of Phoenix which owns the land.>>We get 80,000 here for the Fourth of July, to them it’s just a park. With an active facility showing the history of the Indian school there’s an opportunity for those 80,000 people and more to see this is more.>>In 1978 this woman was a student here. In years earlier her grandmother attended the school.>>We’re in a park but also walking in our old neighborhood. We can make it what we want it to be, educate ourselves in the way we want to be educated and pass on our traditions, our language, our cultures.>>Construction is now fully funded and set to begin this summer. But Native American connections is still seeking funds for the interior. In Phoenix, Audrey Weil, “Cronkite News.”>>A local high school robotics team is headed to the world championships. I caught up with the Cobra Commanders to see how they are gearing up for the big dance.>>You can feel the excitement when the Cobra Commanders qualified for the world championships in March.>>It was — I don’t know, it was an amazing experience.>>Last sometime lead mentor Adam went he was 16.>>They learn everything from problem solving to working as a team and all sorts of things. I wanted to give the students the same opportunity as I had.>>Little shredder beat out other teams in a regional qualifier.>>The Cobra Commanders often p.m. six days a week preparing for the competition.>>The kids worked really, really, really hard many we went back to basics and really simplified everything.>>Even after all of their hard work the team was shocked to take home a win.>>It’s almost surreal, like it didn’t really happen.>>Cody and Curtis have been on the robotics team since freshman year and are both pursuing S.T.E.M. careers in the fall. Now that the commanders have qualified for the world championships in Saint Louis, they are using the time between now and then to tweak a couple things, try new strategic enjoy themselves.>>When asked if they think they will win at worlds?>>No. In all seriousness, we’re a really small team. We definitely don’t have the funding a lot of these teams have, but we’re definitely going to try our best. We’re real excited to go.>>If you want to help out the Cobra Commanders get to the world championships in Saint Louis, the link is gofundme.com/cobracommanders.>>In January Arizona became the first state to require high school student to take the civics test. “Cronkite News” reporter Alexis Dominguez gives us a look into how a Valley teen is helping students pass.>>Riley designed the Arizona high school citizen app.>>I actually had zero experience with building an app but I had some experience with programming in high school.>>The question are from the actual citizenship test. I edited them to make them like multiple choice questions. Most of them you had to write down a full answer. So I developed some answers.>>It’s fun and interactive and you can make it competitive playing against friends or even strangers. The game features Eight sections where you can learn about the 1800s and geography.>>High schools all over the state are now using the app.>>I’m feeling great honestly. We worked very hard on it and I’m glad it’s actually helping people.>>Now McDonald’s is supporting the project. High school students who complete each section of the app can earn a free egg McMuffin.>>Now that McDonald’s is promoting the app it’s going to help them pass.>>He thinks that will get as toness to download and play.>>Oh, yeah, everybody wants free food.>>Riley want to build on his success with the citizenship app and plans to go to college to become a programmer. The app is available on the Apple app store. In the broadcast center, Alexis Dominguez, “Cronkite News.”>>Tonight we continue our “veterans coming home” series. Yesterday an event in Cave Creek brought the project back to its beginnings. “Cronkite News” reporter Audrey Weil attended the event to see what the project is all about and how it continues to grow.>>I spent my 20s preparing for a combat zone, in a combat zone or recovering from a combat zone.>>Rose was one of four veterans who shared their stories at cactus high school.>>Students and vets together is a magic combination.>>Retired teacher Barbara hatch founded the project when she noticed an interest among her students after they watched the movie saving Private Ryan.>>The project has raised awareness of what veterans have done and also who they are.>>Now they are student at college, veterans are parent, teachers, in our community so much. And people don’t know to ask their questions and are afraid to ask.>>Mattie has done three combat tours, two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan and now serves part-time in the National Guard when she’s not home with her son.>>Having students come up afterwards and saying they liked hearing my story and a woman’s perspective, it really motivates me.>>And the students also benefit.>>It kind of teaches all of us, even though we have fears it’s important for us to overcome it. They can help us more than we think they can.>>In addition to holding events each year the project publishes a book of veteran interviews.>>The good thing is, if it all ended tomorrow there are 1200 stories at the Library of Congress in D.C. that are permanently archived, that many veterans and young people’s lives have been touched.>>The book will include an interview with the officer. In Cave Creek, Audrey Weil, “Cronkite News.”>>That’s it for us tonight. We are proud to be the News Division of Arizona PBS. For top Arizona stories any time go to cronkitenews.azpbs.org.