Shelton Speaks Before Special House Committee on Education
Shelton outlined the immediate effects the $77 million in budget cuts have had on the University and warns that further cuts are still pending.

Rebecca Ruiz-McGill
Feb. 13, 2009

University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton spoke before the Arizona House of Representatives Committee on Education during a special public meeting in Tucson on Feb. 13.

The meeting was held at Flowing Wells High School at the request of the House committee members who asked educational representatives from Southern Arizona to speak on the impact of current and potential budget cuts in fiscal year 2009-2010.

Shelton – along with Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District; Roy Flores, chancellor of Pima Community College; Alan Storm, superintendent of the Pima County Joint Technological Education District; Brett Agenbroad, superintendent of the Sierra Vista Unified School District; Alfredo Velasquez, Santa Cruz County superintendent  of schools; and Anita Mendoza, assistant superintendent of instruction at AmeriSchools – were asked to present to the committee members.

The meeting was attended by more than 200 members of the public, many of whom carried signs protesting the current and any future budget cuts to education.

Shelton began by thanking the committee members for holding the special meeting outside of Phoenix and doing so during the current legislative session. He then outlined the University's contributions to Southern Arizona and the state as a whole as Arizona's land-grant university with the charter to serve the entire state.

Shelton mentioned the UA's Mars Mission, the development of water conservation strategies in the Middle East, discoveries on the history of the AIDS epidemic and new life-saving rules for CPR as examples of contributions the UA has made to society  worldwide and said, "Every state dollar appropriated to the UA generates between $6 and $7 in economic activity in the surrounding community. The mere existence of the UA's 11,000 employees and 38,000 students creates 23,000 jobs surrounding the UA."

Shelton also addressed the effects the current budget cut of $77 million has had on the University, adding, "We're not done announcing cuts." Referring to addional cuts not yet announced by the University as a result of the mid-year budget cuts.

Shelton said these cuts so far have resulted in loss of emergency reserves, the elimination of 600 positions with a need to eliminate more, required furlough time for employees next year,  the consolidation of three colleges and mergers of dozens of academic units, the elimination of University College, a 30 percent cut to UA Cooperative Extension Services – which operate in all 15 Arizona counties, a reduction in hours and the establishment of entry fees to museums, a 75 percent cut of UA funding for UAPresents and, finally, the offering of fewer classes, which he said results in larger classes for students and a reduction in access to counselors and other students services.

"I am not being glib when I say that this is merely a warm-up act for what we'll have to do if the cuts for fiscal year 2010 are the size that are currently under contemplation at the Legislature," he said.

Shelton also said the UA took more cuts, both in terms of raw dollars and as a percentage of overall appropriations, than any other state entity.

"We are told to expect that this is just the beginning," he added.

Shelton said each dollar sent to the University "is multiplied more than six-fold in the community when it comes to our campus, creating thousands of spinoff jobs and a quality of life that cannot be measured in money alone."

He added that every dollar taken away "further weakens a sick economy, shuts off opportunity to Arizona students and leaves this state further in the dust of national and global competition for jobs, economic opportunity and a better way of life."

Committee members asked what impact the budget cuts had in comparison to grants the University receives.

Shelton said the money the University receives from the state is its backbone. He said the state money is the foundation that allows the University to compete for grants. He also said cuts hurt the UA's ability to retain and recruit faculty who distinguish the UA from run-of-the-mill universities by winning fierce competitions for hundreds of millions of federal research dollars that are then infused into Arizona's economy.

Shelton received a standing ovation for his presentation from members of the public in attendance, many of whom not only stood and clapped but also whistled and shouted words of encouragement.

"I'm still recovering and my head is spinning at what President Shelton had to say," said Freddy Mendoza, co-director of AmeriSchools College Preparatory Academy. He spoke to the committee on behalf of charter school education in Southern Arizona. "We are all working to give our students an educational opportunity and the promise and challenge may not be there."

Roy Flores, chancellor of Pima Community College, spoke on the collaborative relationship between the UA and the community college.

"We have 3,900 UA students taking classes at seven different Pima campuses. Any further cuts to the college's budget would lead to the turning away of students and has already resulted in fewer employees serving more people" due to an increase in enrollment this year that is expected to continue next year, Flores said.

Many of the invited speakers and public testimonies urged the committee to look beyond cuts and to look at alternative solutions, including tax increases, which could come from voter referendums.

House committee members who were present included Chairman Rich Crandall, Nancy Youngwright, Rae Waters, Eric Meyer, David Schapira and Steve Court.


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Rebecca Ruiz McGill