Arizona is on a crash course toward poverty and economic stagnation, a new study shows. The state Legislature has contributed to the approaching wreckage by ending funding for adult education and decimating spending for K-12 education and the state's universities.
As the Star's Becky Pallack reported Wednesday, a study by researchers from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that Arizona ranks fifth among states for future jobs a high school dropout is qualified to do.
It's not because our students want to be dropouts or to end their educations with only a high school degree. As we reported on May 16, a survey of 8,568 students in the seventh and 11th grades in Pima County by Voices for Education found that 59 percent aspire to some college, a two-year degree, a four-year degree or graduate degrees.
Further, as Voices' Robin Hiller and Brooke Bedrick wrote in the Star, students say that "their schools don't have adequate math and science courses. They want their teachers to demand more from them. They aren't sure they're prepared for college because they rarely talk to counselors. They worry that they cannot afford college."
Hiller and Bedrick noted a "disconnect in Arizona between what we say we want - good schools for our kids - and whom we've been electing.
"Over and over again, the problems we see in Arizona schools come down to lack of funding" by the Legislature, they wrote.
As for the Georgetown study, it's deeply disheartening and should sound an alarm for better education funding, more counseling in public schools, and curricula that focus on getting students through high school and prepared for college or technical school.
The study matched job projections through 2018 with educational requirements for those jobs, Pallack reported. It found that 14 percent of Arizona jobs will require less than a high school education.
These are jobs such as food preparation and serving, building and grounds cleaning, and maintenance, transportation and construction.
"Those are jobs that seriously limit their ability to make a living wage," John Pedicone, vice president of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council and a former school superintendent, told Pallack.
The report said that in the future, securing a place in the middle class will require having some postsecondary education. The largest share of Arizona jobs in 2018 -34 percent - will require at least some college, a certificate or an associate's degree, Pallack reported.
Pedicone said that turning around Arizona's dropout rate should be a priority and that state education policy should focus less on the AIMS test - which doesn't predict success in college or in the work force - and more on helping students prepare for college or for a career and technical-education path.
Roy Flores, Pima Community College chancellor, told Pallack that more than 1 million adults in Arizona have no high school diploma.
"There's a huge need to get those folks educated," Flores said.
And yet the Legislature, in its shortsighted, reduce-the-size-of-government "wisdom," shut down adult education in Arizona.
Bear in mind that 93 percent of Arizona children attend either district public schools or publicly supported charter schools, according to Voices. So when the Legislature takes a knife to school spending, the hemorrhage is vast - and it bleeds into our future.
We must elect candidates who support improving funding for education, both K-12 and the universities. And we must be prepared to help pay the cost. It's about Arizona's children.
Arizona Daily Star