As bad as the budget crisis is in Arizona, and as desperate as our legislators and our governor are to resolve it, Arizonans have to demand that they make rational valuations of their actions and forward thinking assessments of their likely impact on the state and its citizens.
No program or institution can expect to be spared in this era of radical economic and social transformation, especially when so many Arizonans are suffering so deeply. We can expect and must endure cuts to K-12 education, to our university and community colleges, to our social-service systems, to our health-care systems, to our state parks and museums and even public safety.
What we do not have to endure, however, are actions that are taken without full consideration as to whether or not they unnecessarily deepen Arizona's distress in the present and lessen the likelihood that we will all recover sooner in the future rather than later.
The total elimination of Arizona's Adult Basic Education Program, as recommended by Gov. Jan Brewer in her recent budget proposal, is a case in point.
Adult Basic Education, in place since 1969 throughout Arizona, provides basic educational opportunity to over 42,000 people a year, most of them parents of school-age children, and most of them poor by any standard.
Through its GED testing and instruction program, it provides about one-fifth of the state's high school graduates (14,000 in 2009, according to the Arizona Department of Education). Of those, more than 5,000 were between the ages of 16 and 21. The average cost of their participation in adult education was $186.
Those same high school graduates would have cost about $7,000 each in the traditional schooling system, or $35 million.
If the governor's recommendation to eliminate the $4.6 million adult education program is ultimately approved, Arizona will sacrifice $11 million of federal funds for adult education that are directly based on the state's commitment to maintain its funding level.
Clearly, the governor's recommendation, if implemented, will hurt our overall fiscal health, not help it. In addition, a statewide system of opportunity that took 40 years to build will no longer exist for the 800,000 adults in Arizona with less than a high school education, and we will need them prepared for our economy to recover.
Our state leaders need to immediately get down to business, in the most serious sense of the word. Good business practice requires thorough analysis of the state's programs to determine which are providing the best return on investment and those most likely to help the state get back on its feet.
Good business practice also understands that cutting is not always the way out of a crisis, and that sometimes it paralyzes the ability to generate the revenue required to recover.
Arizonans, now more than ever before, must demand that our leadership put its partisan bickering and its dangerous inaction aside and to lead Arizona to a better and more reasonable future.
Arizona and its citizens deserve a rational valuation of its expenditures and its revenues, not a submission to desperation.