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Serious stuff: Trouble Brewing in Arizona’s education budget

Our progressive Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano (now in Washington as Secretary of Homeland Security) hasn’t been out of the state for five minutes, and the conservative, small-government, small-minded cabal is already Brewing up trouble for our state’s educational system.

I am not a terribly political creature, and I don’t intend Three Star Owl to be a frequent political forum.  But I am posting two letters here.  Both deal with an appalling plan for gutting the entire state education system from Kindergarten through University in the name of fixing the current deficit in the state’s budget.  One letter is an e-mail sent to all faculty, employees, staff, affiliates and students of ASU by its controversial President, Michael Crow.  (I have never heard of a university president personally sending an email to every single person affiliated with a university.)  The other is a letter I emailed to our new Governor, Republican Jan Brewer, as well as to my state representatives imploring them to explore and enact different measures to shore up the economic health of our state.

President Crow’s philosophies and actions have not been universally popular during his roughly 7-year tenure as head of ASU, but under his focused and ambitious guidance ASU has advanced into the current educational decade and firmed the foundation for quality education for the rapidly growing numbers of Arizona students for decades to come.  They have also increased the financial contribution of the universities to the state of Arizona — just as supporting any major industry or business would — and that contributes to the economic health of our state.  Read his letter for its content, and consider it as being from someone who is both an expert in and close to the subject.  Keep in mind that this email only contains the effects of Pearce/Kavanagh on the universities of Arizona; there are also wide-reaching effects on secondary education as well, and child welfare issues, such as de-funding all-day kindergarten.
________________________________
From: Michael Crow
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:09 AM
To: DL.EMP.Faculty; DL.EMP.Staff; DL.EMP.AP;
DL.EMP.OtherAffil; DL.WG.ASUF.ALL.STAFF; DL.Student.All
Subject: Proposed Budget Cuts and the Future of Arizona

I am deeply concerned for the future of Arizona State
University. ASU has taken its share of budget cuts to help
the state deal with its revenue shortfall — and we are
prepared to do more.  But Senate Appropriations Chair
Russell Pearce and House Appropriations Chair John Kavanagh,
without considering the full array of options, have singled
out education for the largest cuts. Their plan would reverse
all of the progress ASU has made and set the institution
back a decade or more.
ASU has already taken more than $37 million in state
funding cuts and prepared for further reductions by
eliminating a total of 500 staff positions and 200 faculty
associate positions. We have disestablished schools and
merged academic departments while managing to preserve
academic quality.
On top of these cuts, the Pearce and Kavanagh proposal
would require ASU to cut another $70 million, or 35% of our
remaining state funding, in less than five months. Another
cut of $155 million is proposed for FY10.  Three of our past
legislative initiatives — the research infrastructure bill
of 2004, the Polytechnic campus construction package of 2006
and the SPEED construction stimulus bill of 2008 – would
be defunded. The cuts to our base budget are both cumulative
and permanent and to put them into perspective, they are
equal to:
•         A base General Fund budget reduction of nearly
40% from the FY08 level; or
•         Doubling the number of ASU students without
state funding to 40,000; or
•         Cumulatively reducing per student funding by
almost $3,200;

To deal with cuts of this magnitude, we would need to:
•         Layoff thousands more employees;
•         Have a massive furlough of all remaining
employees for two weeks or longer;
•         Increase tuition and fees; (replacing the cuts
by raising tuition alone would require a tuition rate of
almost $11,000 for Arizona residents)
•         Close academic programs.
•         Close a campus or possibly two.

Our Legislature has failed to live up to its
constitutionally mandated responsibility to fund education.
Borrowing funds, running a budget deficit (which Arizona is
constitutionally allowed to do for one year) and raising
taxes are not politically popular. But the alternative will
be even less popular – creating for Arizona a Third World
education and economic infrastructure.

We can use this deficit as an excuse to take a chainsaw to
vital public services or we can work our way out of our
current budget problems — exploring every option — without
sacrificing our future.  To that end, I will make ASU’s
economic and financial expertise available to our state
leaders.

You can read more about our budget situation and the
Legislature’s constitutional responsibility to fund
education at http://asu.edu/budgetcuts.  I welcome your
constructive feedback at
president@asu.edu<mailto:president@asu.edu>.

Michael M. Crow
President
http://president.asu.edu<http://president.asu.edu/>

Arizona ocotillo in bloom; photo E. Shock

Arizona ocotillo in bloom; photo E. Shock

Here is my letter, written to state legislators in response the information contained in the Crow email:

Gov. Brewer:

I can’t get a phrase out of my head: “Bomb ’em back to the Stone Age!”

This is what Pearce/Kavanagh would do: Bomb our schools and universities back to the Stone Age.

Arizona is in a fiscal crisis, and something has to be done, but please do not support this unfairly harsh hacking of our state’s education budget.  Other options must be considered and enacted.

EDUCATION IS NOT A LUXURY.  Don’t make Arizona a state where young children are poorly educated and higher education is merely the privilege of the wealthy.  Don’t decimate advances of recent years, such as all day kindergarten.  Education goes hand in hand with commerce: we need a well-educated workforce to attract and keep high-tech business in our state.  Above all, don’t balance the budget at the expense of Arizona’s students.

Why would our state government, which has an obligation to fund education, which should be PROUD to have a major role in supporting education, take such a short-sighted solution to economic shortfalls, and choose such a depleted and difficult path for our businesses and people?

There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by Bombing our schools and universities back to the Stone Age. Do not support Pearce/Kavanagh’s education cuts.

Allison Shock
small business owner
17th Distr. voter
Scottsdale AZ

If you are an Arizona resident and wish to express your views on the cataclysmic budget cuts proposed by Pearce/Kavanagh, use this link to find the names and email addresses of your senators and representatives.

If you wish to email our governor Jan Brewer, it must be done through the contacts page of her office, here.

Let’s hope, for the future of Arizona and its citizens, our state government arrives at a different solution to balance the budget than the short-sighted and irresponsible Pearce/Kavanagh plan.

Posted by Allison on Jan 23rd 2009 10:55 am | No Comments yet
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