Thursday, January 29, 2009

Arizona gutting public education to balance budget

I've written before about the crazy-drastic action the GOP-led Utah legislature is taking to keep their books looking good. Now Arizona, directly following the departure of the "education governor" to the Obama administration, seems to have lost their damn minds (via HuffPo).

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Russell Pearce (R-18) and Arizona House Appropriation Committee Chair John Kavanagh (R-8) are leading a charge for massive cuts in public education across Arizona. The Pearce-Kavanagh proposal includes $631 million cut from the Arizona university system over 18 months, a 10 percent across-the-board cut for public elementary and secondary school districts, elimination of all-day kindergarten and early kindergarten, and elimination of $125 million in school tax credits currently provided to individuals and corporations who donate to public education.

Last year, then-Governor Napolitano urged lawmakers to work on a bipartisan plan to avert the impending budget crisis, but most elected officials were preoccupied with re-election campaigns. After the election, when Napolitano was named as the likely new Homeland Security Secretary, the Republican-led legislature decided to wait for the automatic ascension of fellow-Republican Janet Brewer to the governorship. In the meantime, the budget shortfall became a budget crisis.

The state budget shortfall is $1.6 billion for the 2009 fiscal year (July 2008 - June 2009) and more than $3 billion for the 2010 fiscal year (July 2009 - June 2010). Under the Pearce-Kavanagh proposal, roughly two-thirds of the money needed to meet the shortfall would be extracted from the universities. The rest of the cutbacks are primarily to elementary and secondary education and health care.

You can read a detailed account of what is going on at Arizona State in all this madness here. Seriously...shouldn't education always be the last thing that gets cut (if anything needs to be cut at all)? Is it so hard to convince yourself you can't throw away your future to make it through a (relatively) short-term crisis?

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