Lupita Walldez listens to a speaker during the rally at El Rio Neighborhood Center. The 300 people attending Thursday's event were protesting Gov. Jan Brewer's recommendation to eliminate $3.4 million in state adult-education funding. But state schools superintendent Tom Horne said those funds are too critical to be in danger because they come with an $11 million federal match. JILL TORRANCE / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Jesus Ayala needs his GED, and Arizona needs him.

That was the message on his poster Thursday at a rally for state support of GED programs.

The state spends $3.4 million on adult education, and that money is part of the Gov. Jan Brewer's proposed budget cuts.

State schools chief Tom Horne said through a spokesperson that those funds are too critical to be in peril because they come with an $11 million federal match.

"It's going to cut our dreams," Ayala said, "dreams to get a GED, get a better job, a career."

Ayala, 67, was laid off from his job as an industrial mechanic more than a year ago. He has been looking for work, but many employers require a GED. Now he's taking classes to prepare for a test.

About 300 people attended the rally at El Rio Learning Center, 1390 W. Speedway, and wrote postcards to legislators.

Here are some fast facts about the demand for adult education:

• About 16 percent of Arizona adults 25 and older don't have a high school diploma or GED, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

• About 18 percent of all high school diplomas issued in Arizona last year were GEDs, according to the Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning.

• Arizona's high school drop-out rate is 3.6 percent, according to the Arizona Department of Education.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 807-8012.