For the second time in two weeks, hundreds of students, parents, and teachers descended on the Arizona Capitol to protest cuts to the state's education budget.
"Doug Ducey step off it!" they shouted, marching around the Capitol courtyard waving brightly colored signs. "Put students over profit!"
Legislators are mulling over a proposal, hammered out between the governor and Republican leadership Wednesday, that would slash funding for higher education by $104 million. Among other things, the plan eliminates state support for Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal county community colleges.
The plan injects $102 million into the K-12 system, which covers the cost of increased enrollment and inflation. Educators say, however, that the way the money is allocated could lead to layoffs among support staff, such as librarians, bus drivers, and nurses. While Ducey increased in-classroom spending by 5 percent, the budget knocks non-classroom spending down by $113 million.
Arizona already was spending 40 percent less on higher education and 18 percent less on K-12 schools than it did before the 2007 recession, according to a report from the Washington, D.C. think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
"I feel frustrated," said Farina King, a mother of three who is working on a PhD at Arizona State University. "I was raised to believe education is a ladder. This just feels like another excuse to keep the masses stupid and keep the poor down."
Adama Hoff, 17, came to the protest Thursday with a group of friends from Glendale High, where she is a senior. She just finished her college applications and is worried about potential tuition hikes. She and her family came to the United States from Liberia as refugees 10 years ago.
"I came here to get a better education and make something of myself," she said. "I don't want to end up like my parents, working minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life."
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