Mar 232011

By Tammy Gray-Searles —

“Industry and innovation will not come to Arizona by ‘watering down’ educational opportunities,” Holbrook School District Business Manager Garry McDowell told Senator Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake.

McDowell made a plea to legislators to support Governor Jan Brewer’s budget and oppose the senate budget plan.

“I appreciate the sacrifices you make to serve at the legislature. However, we are disappointed at the Senate’s efforts to challenge Governor Brewer’s proposed FY12 budget,” McDowell wrote.

The senate budget includes nearly $1 billion in cuts to education funding statewide, including universities and K-12 schools. Brewer’s budget leaves education funding at nearly the same levels as last year, but makes large cuts to healthcare services.

“The governor has proposed a budget that is much more supportive of schools,” McDowell noted.

He pointed out that the senate budget plan reduces education funding by approximately seven percent, on top of cuts made in previous years that left the state far behind the national spending average per student.

According to a report from the Arizona Auditor General’s Office, Arizona spent $7,609 per student in 2010, $7,908 per student in 2009 and $7,814 per student in 2008. The national average in 2008 was $10,297.

The report also broke the numbers down by spending in the classroom, and spending outside of the classroom for other services. In Arizona, spending in the classroom was $4,253 per student in 2010, $4,497 per student in 2009 and $4,481 per student in 2008, compared to the 2008 national average of $6,262. Arizona spending outside the classroom, which includes administration, transportation, food service, student support, instruction support and operations, was $3,356 per student in 2010, $3,411 in 2009 and $3,333 in 2008, compared to the 2008 national average of $4,035.

McDowell pointed out that funding isn’t the only key to student success, but it is necessary to properly operate the school district. He urged the legislature to consider the fact that cutting education might solve the budget problem in the short-term, but would likely harm the state’s future in the long run, since education is vital to economic success.

“We all know that money is not the only determining factor for educational success, but the continued cuts to basic education in Arizona will severely hamper efforts to achieve educational excellence in our schools,” he said.