Your recent editorial criticizing the State Legislature over provisional community college district funding ("Legislators Short Change Gila County") was not only unfair, it was inaccurate. In your attempt to portray our efforts in a negative light, you somehow left out many key facts.
First, we work tirelessly in a bipartisan effort to represent Legislative District 5 without choosing sides within the district. In an atmosphere split far too often along party lines, we are known at the State Capitol for putting party loyalties aside for the good of our constituency. To call into question our loyalty to our district is ludicrous.
Second, it was not our decision to have Gila Community College (GCC) end their partnership with Eastern Arizona College (EAC). In fact, the board of supervisors made that decision, knowing full well that the current law mandates specific funding mechanisms that would possibly result in a funding loss for GCC. Furthermore, we were never contacted by anyone in Gila County for any information regarding the possible impact of their decision.
Gila County's college is a provisional college district, not a community college district. The purpose of the provisional district is for counties without the population or tax base to enter into agreements with other districts to provide courses locally so their students do not have to pay out-of-county tuition. To blame us for the funding issues at GCC is like blaming the firefighter for the fire. We didn't create the problem, we're trying to solve it.
Third, we did not "rush" this bill through the process. In fact, no other education bill in this past session went through as much scrutiny as this one did. The bill was first heard in committee in January, and received its final vote in late May.
Given the decision of the Gila County Supervisors, we did the best we could under the circumstances. All involved knew the consequences of their decision, we were simply trying to alleviate the problem with the least amount of pain on both sides.
Finally, the money in question is due to EAC based on student counts that occurred nearly two years ago (the law funds each community college based on the student count from two years prior to the current year). If the citizens of Gila County don't like the decision, they need to raise it with those officials who made the decision. Again, we're just trying to help solve the problem.
We are trying to put this issue behind us and work for the citizens of Gila County like we have done in the past. Whether it be forest health, water, health care, or education, we have never taken a parochial view of our district. We have always done, and will continue to fight for Gila County and GCC.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of us individually if you have any questions or concerns.
Jack A.Brown, Senator
Jake Flake, Speaker
Bill Konopnicki, Representative