AZ educators question prison funding over education

CBS 5 News
Saturday, January 24, 2015
Jason Barry

It's no secret Arizona schools rank near the bottom nationwide when it comes to money spent on students.

Its one of the reasons Gov. Doug Ducey is proposing a $134 million boost to classroom funding in his latest budget proposal.

However, Dana Wolfe Naimark with Arizona's Children's Action Alliance said that those numbers are misleading, since the governor is also proposing $123 million in non-classroom cuts.

Naimark told CBS 5 that the small amount of funding left for ARionza schools pails in comparison to the $100 million the governor is proposing to spend to build 3,000 new private prison beds.

The discrepancy in spending between schools and prisons is out of whack, Naimark said.

"The path we are setting ourselves on is more growth in prisons and more shrinking in education," Naimark said. "Shrinking university resources, while keeping K-12 and neighborhood and charter schools behind inflation."

The governor is also suggesting another $75 million in cuts to the state's public universities.

Kevin McCarthy is president of the Arizona Tax Research Association.

McCarthy said it's not fair to compare education and prison funding, since one doesn't have anything to do with the other.

"It absolutely doesn't work that way," McCarthy said. "From a political stand point it gives people an opportunity to say you are not funding schools - you are funding putting bad guys in lock up, but that is a gross simplification of what our challenges are."

Ducey's office sent CBS 5 this statement:

"Governor Ducey has pledged to lead under a classrooms first initiative. His budget fulfills that promise by prioritizing funding where the learning happens – between a teacher and a student – with a $134 million increase in classroom funding and an overall net increase in total education funding. Governor Ducey's budget reflects his commitment to make both education excellence and public safety a priority."
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