PHOENIX—The need for fact-based, nonpartisan and independent investigative journalism in Arizona has never been greater. 

This is especially true for newsroom coverage about the state’s education system, a topic the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting believes is one of the most pressing issues facing Arizona residents: How future generations are educated and the extent to which unequal access to quality education leaves subsets of students behind.

As the state’s only nonprofit newsroom dedicated to statewide investigative reporting, AZCIR is committed to exploring this topic in greater depth. 

We’re thrilled to announce that veteran Arizona journalist Maria Polletta will join AZCIR on May 17 to do just that.

Her position as AZCIR’s full time education reporter is made possible by a generous grant from the Arizona Community Foundation’s Ellis Center for Educational Excellence. 

Maria Polletta

“The Arizona Community Foundation has a long history of supporting quality education in communities across Arizona,” said Steve Seleznow, ACF president and CEO. “This latest investment in investigative reporting builds upon that history to share data and stories that illuminate issues that exist within our education system.”

Established in 1978, ACF is a statewide leader in philanthropic giving with a family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. Through its Ellis Center for Educational Excellence, ACF makes significant investments to expand innovative, high-quality reforms to benefit Arizona.

ACF is also the largest independent provider of college scholarships in the state with an annual distribution of more than $4 million.

“This generous investment in local journalism couldn’t come at a more important time for our state’s education system,” said Brandon Quester, AZCIR’s executive director and editor. “The challenges facing students and their families in Arizona are real, and too often unevenly distributed. This is especially true now, so a critical eye toward what happens next within Arizona schools is essential.”

Polletta joins AZCIR from The Arizona Republic, where she covered state government and politics, including enterprise coverage of the Arizona Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and the state Supreme Court. She previously reported on inequality issues, economic development and city politics, with bylines from Arizona to Mexico.

As a journalist and subject-matter-expert, Polletta also regularly appeared on television and radio, and has served as an analyst and moderator, which included the only debate between then-U.S. Senate candidates Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally in 2018. She has been selected for various national reporting fellowships ranging from the Poynter Institute’s Growing Up Poor to the National Press Foundation’s Spotlight on Statehouse and Local Reporting. Polletta also served as the co-chair of the Arizona Republic’s Diversity Committee and helped launch the public-facing Diversity Dialogue panel series that invites community members to analyze coverage of marginalized groups.