Last month I noted a wave of Republican-led proposals to seriously cut financing for public colleges and universities. I suggested that these moves would force more queen sacrifices from a great deal of campuses. Arizona was part of that wave, with its governor Ducey seeking $75 million in reductions. This week that state considered even further reductions:
The governor originally wanted to cut their budgets by $75 million, but the new deal would cut state appropriation by $104 million, or 14 percent of their state support.
And now the budget has this unusual goal: removing all state support for many community colleges.
the final deal would cut an additional $9 million, to eliminate all state funds. Small community college districts would continue to receive money, but the large districts that would now have no state funds include the mammoth Maricopa and Pima districts.
Late Friday night the Arizona legislature approved the plan, which included “cuts [of] nearly $100 million from state schools.” (More than the initial Ducey proposal, but not quite what was on the table last week) Therefore those community college systems will naturally have to boost tuition and/or cut programs.
Why did Arizona do this? Here’s a useful sample of the privatizing argument:
Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Governor Ducey, defended the cuts, telling The Arizona Republic that the budget plan “protects taxpayers.”
Added Scarpinato: “We can’t spend money we don’t have, and the governor is committed to protecting taxpayers by balancing the budget. This is a values-based budget that puts the state on a stable fiscal path.”
Nothing about improving education through removing state control, as Wisconsin’s governor suggested, or anything like that. There is the interesting flag of “values” – for Arizona, does that mean a call for traditional moral values, a summons to frontier virtues, or fiscal rectitude, or something other?
This might not be a case of complete privatization, however, as many community colleges receive some funding from local (city or county) taxes. I don’t know to what extend Maricopa and Pima do this. If they do receive such support, this might be a case of localization, rather than privatization per se. And if local funding exists, the colleges could lobby for an increase to make up for the state shortfall. I don’t know the politics enough to determine if this is possible or doomed.
Stepping back a little, what does this new Arizona budgetary move mean for American higher education? Is this the first sign of a national trend, or just an outlier?