As poet Amanda Gorman so eloquently put it on Inauguration Day this year, the power to bring light to this world lies within every one of us.
That’s why I’ve introduced HB2824 to invest in Adult Education in Arizona and why I hope you’ll use your power to help me get it heard in the House Education Committee.
Currently, over 700,000 working-age Arizonans still need a high school diploma (and COVID is likely greatly expanding that number). Without an education, low wage workers are the ones being hit hardest by the pandemic – losing their jobs and with it their ability to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
They need a way to lift themselves out of poverty, employers need a strong, qualified workforce, and we all benefit when more people are contributing to our economy. Education is the key.
That’s why the Arizona Dept of Education issues grants to 25 providers of Adult Education across the state, including seven community colleges which offer programs that allow adults to earn their GED and at the same time, work toward an Industry Credential and/or Associate’s degree. They also provide wrap-around services to help meet the diverse needs of adult learners. It has a 74.8% success rate and educates 13,000 students per year.
However, there’s been no increase in funding since 1997, and so there is a month’s long waiting list. Arizona is also at risk of losing federal matching funds if we don’t increase our own investment. My bill, HB2824 calls for a $5 million appropriation, which a fiscal impact statement shows will provide a huge return on our investment in the form of $38.8 million in additional revenue for the state.
This fiscally responsible, successful program would cost the state hundreds per student, while a different bill currently under consideration to allow a private vendor to open a charter school for adults would cost $6700 per student. We can spend millions to educate a few hundred students per year, or for the same amount, educate thousands in an already successful program.
This week a number of bills will be heard in the State Senate that would once again drain more money from our public district and charter schools. I’ve provided a link to the Save Our Schools newsletter where you can learn more about those specific bills and what you can do. You’ll find it at the end of this article.
Meanwhile, here’s my position on ESA’s/Vouchers:
Our state has a constitutional as well as moral obligation to provide every child with a quality public education. It’s also in our own best interest. So, I supported the original intent of ESA’s to provide for children with extraordinary needs for which public schools are not adequately funded.
However, I strongly OPPOSE the EXPANSION of ESA’s/Vouchers. That’s because some legislators have hijacked ESA/vouchers for their own agenda: to undercut our public schools and privatize education.
Despite those efforts, the families of almost 90% of Arizona’s children still choose public schools for many reasons. They provide a vital center for our communities, important electives and extracurricular activities that build well-rounded people, and a great education from well-qualified, caring teachers.
Because our legislature has diverted so many millions of our tax dollars to private schools, we now face a severe teacher shortage, crumbling buildings, and inadequate resources.
That’s why voters passed Prop 208 – to better fund our schools and incentivize teachers to stay in Arizona. But as fast as Arizonans’ vote to put money into the bucket for public schools, legislators continue to drill holes in the bottom, draining as many of our tax dollars as they can to private schools. They’re doing it again this coming week.
I will oppose bills that would expand ESA vouchers, and I hope you will, too. We must invest in public schools so that we we can ensure that every student gets the quality education they deserve. Check out the Save Our Schools Weekly Education Report to learn about this week’s bills and how you can make a difference by contacting your legislators.