is CEO of the Tucson Association of Realtors, one of several organizations seeking donations for teachers.

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The path to a better community and economy starts in the classroom.

Beginning July 28 for two weeks, a few packs of pencils and notebooks here and there can make a big difference. As thousands of K-12 students head back to school, the path to a better community and economy starts in the classroom.

A good first step in that path is the Tucson Supplies Teachers school supply drive. This is a communitywide project led by several civic-minded businesses and organizations.

The mission is to give students the basic educational tools they need to succeed in school by collecting supplies and financial donations.

This project is presented by the Tucson Association of Realtors, Tucson Values Teachers, Walgreens and News 4 Tucson's Kristi's Kids. Among the major participants, financial supporters and sponsors are Jim Click Automotive, McDonald's, Pima Federal Credit Union and Peter Piper Pizza.

If done separately, this would have been the Realtors' seventh annual drive and Tucson Values Teachers' fifth annual drive.

Seven years ago, several of our association's members identified this issue as an underserved need. Their desire to help students was a strong match with our ongoing efforts to be good stewards of the community through public service.

As a result, the launch of an annual school supplies drive was supported by our board of directors.

Joining forces this year to create a single, communitywide campaign was the vision of Tucson Values Teachers Executive Director Jacquelyn Jackson. The Realtors immediately embraced the opportunity to grow the program through this exceptional broad-based partnership.

This collaborative effort will result in increased efficiency, eliminate a duplication of efforts, maximize resources and expand the reach throughout the region.

As Southern Arizona's largest school supplies drive, it likely will collect more donations than ever and help more students than ever.

Education and the economy

For young people, education is an investment in their quality of life and financial future.

I also serve on the Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities board. That is where I often hear how important education is to economic development.

Companies that offer quality jobs want a strong K-12 system that produces an educated workforce. Improved education improves job skills that improve work opportunities that improve the economy.

An educated workforce helps businesses be more competitive locally, nationally and, as needed, globally. In the future, competition will accelerate the demand for higher academic performance.

Support students, teachers

It's no secret Arizona's funding of K-12 education is weak. Year after year, the U.S. Census Bureau ranks the state near the bottom nationally.

As a community, Tucson Supplies Teachers is our opportunity to step up and make a difference. Students need the basic in-class resources to develop the essential skills to succeed in life.

Through Aug. 11, financial and school supply donations are being collected. Having more partners makes it easier to donate.

Financial contributions can be made at

School supplies can be donated at Walgreens and Peter Piper Pizza.

Tucson Values Teachers will distribute donations across the region to public, private and charter schools.

I encourage all civic-minded businesses and residents to support Tucson Supplies Teachers. The first step toward a better community starts with helping young people today.

Philip Tedesco is CEO of the Tucson Association of Realtors.