Pledge to save education as Brewer plans big cuts

ABC 15 News
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Rudabeh Shahbazi

PHOENIX - There is a new pledge to save education, as the governor plans to cut millions of dollars, but it’s not from lawmakers. Arizona ranks 49th in the nation for K-12 investment and has one of the highest dropout rates. An organization called “Arizona Education Commitment” is urging lawmakers to find other ways to balance the budget, saying the State Constitution explicitly prioritized education.

“We have to provide that if we want to have a state whose economy can function and whose citizens can provide for their own needs,” said Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a video on the organization’s website. She added that the future of Arizona’s business and industry depends on education to deliver a competitive workforce.

But those who say the only way to balance the budget is to make hard choices about real cuts, point out the state is in the fourth straight year of what appears to be a chronic deficit crisis.

“If we insulate them from budget cuts, the result of that is pretty simple,” said Kevin J. McCarthy, President of the Arizona Tax Research Association. “That you need to extract pretty devastating cuts on the rest of the state government.”

Mothers told ABC15 they are divided about raising taxes to pay for their children’s education. Some, like Shakaya White, say it’s worth it in a state where fewer than a quarter of 4th and 8th-graders are proficient readers.

“They gotta learn their ABCs and 1-2-3s,” said White, a mother of two. “If I gotta pay the government extra money for my kids to learn, then that’s what I will do as a parent, because my kids’ education is more important to me than anything.”

But other struggling parents, like Ashley Hudson, say education doesn’t mean anything if she can’t put food on the table.

“It is most important, because our kids need a future,” she said. “But if we can’t afford it, how are they going to have a future?”