The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
For the third consecutive year, I have filed state legislation to restore funding to our state’s community colleges.
As Arizonans from all walks of life seek opportunity in a volatile economy and an international pandemic, it is imperative that our state legislature invest in proven workforce development and training for the current and next generation of learners.
Regrettably, my previous proposals to fund our community colleges have not made it to the governor’s desk — much less received a single hearing in the GOP-led legislature. This is a political decision, not a matter of resources.
I’m not giving up, and that’s why I’ve submitted House Bill 2207. The proposed legislation allocates $29.3 million to the state’s network of 12 community colleges, and most importantly, it restores funding to Pima and Maricopa community colleges, who have not received ongoing state funding since 2015.
You might ask why this happened: In my opinion, Republican lawmakers had a temper tantrum when the independently elected governing boards of these institutions made a bold, critical decision to provide in-state tuition rates to undocumented learners eager to contribute to the communities they now call their own. It was self-defeating retaliation.
There are nearly 20,000 students enrolled at Pima Community College, and three Pima campuses are within Legislative District 3.
Institutions like Pima Community College nurture avid learners in the fields of math, arts, science, applied technology, nursing, aviation and much more — all of which are critical to our shared success.
Our community colleges are beyond worthy of our investment.
We have a billion-dollar surplus. Our state’s finances are solvent in large part due to federal COVID-19 response dollars, and yet we are still holding our adult learners hostage by simply looking the other way. And when we get COVID-19 under control, economists predict a rebound fueled by pent-up demand.
I have a simple call to action to the business leaders of Southern Arizona who have Gov. Doug Ducey’s ear: If you truly believe in an economy that prepares our workforce, let’s get HB 2207 across the finish line. We need your help and advocacy.
To my GOP colleagues, let’s give our community colleges the support they deserve. Arizonans are counting on you.
Andrés Cano, 28, is a Democrat representing Legislative District 3 in the Arizona House of Representatives. He was reelected to a second term in 2020.