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.