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State should stick with Hull's educational plan

By The Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
June 14, 2000
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She's at it again. But this time, Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, echoes the voices of the House Republicans and concurs with the opinion of the Senate majority.

The other catch is that she isn't whining about sex-ridden dormitories or corrupted college students. The issue here is funding for education.

After receiving criticism from republicans in both houses and a rival proposal from the Speaker of the House, Gov. Jane Hull's Arizona 2000 education plan was shot down in the House appropriations committee.

The alternate proposal - made by Jeff Groscost, R-Mesa - does not require Hull's sales tax increase, but excludes additional funds for state universities.

The Republican governor's bill would increase state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.6 percent, but that money would go toward education for students in grades K-12, community colleges and universities.

While McGrath predictably called Hull's bill "stupid," others argued that there is adequate money allocated for universities - saying funds merely needs to be re-appropriated. But some of the state universities' problems can only be solved with more money.

Universities constantly and naturally expand - more structures are built, more structures are revamped, more classes are offered and more students enroll.

There is the question of where to stick thousands of freshmen who may or may not be able to squeeze into the residence halls and area apartments.

There is the million-dollar mess called Christopher City that the University of Arizona needs to demolish, while compensating for years of neglect.

And on top of all of this, there is the perpetual problem of retention - the "brain drain" - both of teachers and students.

These are all problems that need funds in order to reach a solution. Reallocation may be the quotient in that equation, but there are some things that simply need more money.

Upping tuition is the oxymoronic solution to retaining students, as many may leave college simply because of the rising cost of attendance.

Hull's plan is a reasonable solution to a difficult problem, and any argument against more funding for education is ridiculous. Arizona education has been at the tops of every paper in the state for months - because it is at the bottom of the educational scales in the United States.

There is the obvious domino effect in the educational system, and studies like Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards test has shown that students at the high school level are not prepared for university-level work. Some question whether they are even equipped for work at the high school level.

Groscost's bill would provide funding for these students with money received primarily from the state's $3.1 billion tobacco settlement. But what we need is continuity from lower-level to higher education. According to Regent Judy Gignac, the speaker's plan would not only exclude universities from fund increases, it would cut the existing budgets.

Hull's Arizona 2000 plan would avoid budget cuts for institutions that are already tight on funds, and it would make a valiant effort to satiate financial wounds.

The governor's bill already passed in the Senate, but will face opposition from an overtly opposed House.

However, all the houses are deciding is whether the issue should make it to the voters' hands in November. Even with all the opposition in the world, it's plainly reasonable to ask that Hull's education plan be put on the ballot.

The alternative could be detrimental to the educational system - higher education could suffer with Groscost's bill, and education could suffer throughout the state if neither hits the ballots.

Not only does the House need to pass the bill during special session, but it needs to rescind any remnants of the alternative education plan that hint at cutting university spending.

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