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Demonstrators: Cutting adult education programs will hurt Arizona

Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX — Brandon Muzzin was in seventh grade when he stopped going to school. Through a state-funded program, he was able to get his GED and is now majoring in engineering at Pima Community College.
Olivia Acosta dropped out when she was in fifth grade. Now she wants to set an example for her children by learning English through state programs teaching English to adults.
Muzzin and Acosta were among dozens who rallied Wednesday at the Capitol against Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to eliminate state funding for GED testing services and adult education courses.
Muzzin, who lives in Tucson, said cutting funding for GED services would take away the chance for many adults to get educated.
“If people realize that they want to get educated, they should still have that opportunity so that they can get a better job and move on with their lives,” he said.
Acosta, who lives in Phoenix, said she doesn’t want to lose the opportunity to take English classes and GED preparation courses.
“I want to show my kids the importance of being educated, but if the program is not available anymore I won’t be able to continue my education and reach my goal,” she said.
As part of her budget proposal, Brewer called for eliminating funding for several state Department of Education programs geared toward adult learners.
During the 2008-2009 school year, more than 14,000 adults participated in Adult Basic Education programs while about 1,500 took part in Adult Secondary Education programs. About 7,500 adults also attended English language courses, according to the Department of Education.
Meanwhile, about 14,500 received GEDs, accounting for almost 20 percent of all high school diplomas issued in the state that year, the agency reported.
Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, told the crowd that adult education helps the economy.
“If we cut these programs to the level that’s being suggested, then we are going to be dimming the future for so many people,” Young Wright said. “They won’t be able to get a good job and take care of their children.”
Arizona has one of the nation’s highest dropout rates, something that Regina Suitt, a member of the Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning, said makes it difficult for adults to get good-paying jobs.
“It seems ironic that in a state that has issues with high school dropouts we would get rid of a thing that can help people become productive members of our community,” Suitt said.
A spokesman in Brewer’s office didn’t immediately return a phone call late Wednesday afternoon.

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