Thanks, in part, to the new leadership of Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, our children’s educational future is in the sewer. With the stroke of the pen, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer sent Arizona’s public schools into third world status, on Saturday, with her signature on a bill which cut more than $350 million to Arizona’s already deprived schools.
As Governor Brewer signed the bill, she brazenly issued a short statement blaming Arizona's public school budget deficit on overspending. Overspending? Arizona ranks 50th in per pupil funding. The average Arizona teacher makes $5,000 less than the national average. Arizona’s class sizes are near the top in the nation.
As Arizona approaches Latin American status in education spending, it is hard to imagine what the Arizona Legislature and the Governor have in store for our children as they prepare to trim another $3 billion dollars off Arizona’s fiscal 2011 budget; presumably, once again, on the backs of Arizona’s children.
The legislature crafted these draconian education budget cuts behind closed doors this past Wednesday evening. In a display of total disdain for Arizona’s children, the legislature rushed the bill through the process without consideration for any other revenue enhancement or financing options. In other words, according to Brewer and the legislature, both our school officials and most importantly, our children, can wallow in a deep abyss of ignorance and nobody in Arizona's government is going to seek a less damaging solution.
The damage done by the Arizona Legislature and the Governor is immeasurable. However, one thing is certain; an increasing number of our children are now staring at a futureless future thanks to the educational Armageddon committed by Arizona’s elected officials.
With one of the highest dropout rates in the nation, Arizona’s under funded schools have been highly successful in creating a permanent underclass of young people whose lack of educational attainment leave them hopeless and vulnerable to many of our social ills which already costs us untold dollars in public spending on jails, prisons, mental health care facilities and of course welfare. Brewer and Pearce’s approach to the budget crisis could best be described as “penny wise and pound foolish.” In Arizona, it costs about 10 times more to incarcerate a young adult than it does to properly educate them. Do the math, we have not only bankrupted our kids future, we have set the stage for yet another budget crisis at come future date due to the social welfare chaos that was sent into motion this past Saturday. One can only imagine how much it will cost taxpayers to support the growing welfare rolls.
Speaking of welfare, Arizona’s local and state governments are highly adept at using taxpayer monies to support corporate welfare. Most informed citizens are aware of the infamous Citynorth receipt of $100 million dollars which was to be used to build a private parking garage for an upscale mall off of Highway 101 courtesy of Phoenix mayor Phil “extend my term limit two years” Gordon. Further, the West Valley Cities and Town’s (i.e., Westmarc) has immersed themselves in the creation of enormous corporate tax breaks within their self-created “free enterprise zones” some of which severely encroach upon Luke Air Force Base and serve to threaten the future of the base as well as to fatten the coffers of the politically generous corporations.
The Arizona State Legislature is littered with examples of corporate welfare courtesy of the Arizona taxpayers. Meanwhile, our children, to young to understand the legislative end game, are having their futures taken from them precisely at a time in history where becoming highly educated is their only defense in this age of free trade agreements which have resulted in the relocation of so many American jobs abroad in the name of cheap labor.
I am cognizant of the fact that the legislature has several very difficult choices to make because of the irresponsible stewardship of Napolitano and the rest of the Arizona State Legislature encompassing the past several years. There is no absolutely no question that very serious cuts must be made in the budget and some of these cuts may very well had to have been made in education. Yet, I believe that if I were a legislator, I would be holding a state capital garage sale in which everything that is not nailed down would be auctioned off before I would touch one dime of our children’s educational monies. I would have explored alternative funding methods to support the budget.
Were there other choices other than to greatly diminish the future of Arizona’s children for years to come? Well, we will never know because the legislature and Brewer started and ended their budget balancing act at the expense of those who cannot speak for themselves. You see children don’t have lobbyists which will save their future, recipients of corporate welfare do. Children do not donate to political campaigns; corporations routinely “bribe” their way to economically favorable corporate welfare policies passed by upwardly mobile politicians. Children cannot vote and the one firewall of protection that children should be able to count on (i.e., the legislature), have abandoned them in favor of their own selfish political interests. For example, many of our legislators get wined and dined by the American Legislative Exchange Commission where their corporate friendly legislation is ghost written for them by their corporate sponsors while Arizona taxpayers and pay for a weekend of partying at the expense of public stewardship. Did the legislature cut its travel budget and its other frivolous expenses? Call your legislator and ask him/her what they sacrificed so our children could have a future? Don't hold your breath waiting for a forthright answer.
Education should be the last place that one would look to cut because of the generational impact that these decisions can and do make on both individuals and society as a whole. Yet, Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer commenced their cuts at the expense of Arizona’s future. This cannibalizing of the educational future of our young people sends a clear message to the rest of the country which clearly states that “In Arizona, we eat our young.”