You’ve seen the headlines. At the same time prison inmate numbers are decreasing in other states and crime rates are going down here, the governor wants to spend $100 million on a new private prison.
And this comes at a time when the Joint Legislative Budget Committee acknowledges that, when adjusted for inflation, we are spending more than $1000 less per student in Arizona this year than we did in 2008.
The contrast in tone of two presentations before the House Appropriations Committee this past week clearly defines what we’re up against. Dept. of Corrections Director Charles Ryan advocated with conviction for 300 additional prison beds, even though his remarks included the information that there is currently space available at some state prisons -- and we’re hearing now from our county sheriffs that their jails have vacancies, too.
Without apology, Dept. of Education Chief of Staff Michael Bradley described our education system as “poor” but remained steadfast that, although funding helps, “we will do what we can with the resources we have.” He was unwilling even to stand up for the court-ordered $330 million due our schools this year for inflation.
That’s just not good enough.
It is possible to shift the priorities of the Legislature to address the reality our students and teachers live with in their classrooms. Class sizes are too high and teacher salaries are too low. Good teachers are leaving the profession.
There should be no more talk at the Capitol about new prison beds. Instead, let’s make sure the message to fund schools and universities is heard from people all across our state. It’s time to educate, not incarcerate! Arizona cannot afford to continue to cut public schools and state university funding and expect to support the job growth needed to be economically competitive in the 21st century.
The governor’s budget does not reflect the right priorities, and House Democrats are ready for a fight -- but to win, we need help spreading the word. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or visit our website, www.azhousedemocrats.com.
Also, make sure your voice is heard. Here are ways you can get involved at the Capitol:
- · Follow bills that have been introduced by exploring the Arizona Legislative website
- · Watch the action live - click on the streaming live video player and archive
- · Comment online from home using the Request to Speak System