Gila College Faces Appalling Servitude

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We are appalled by the chaotic, absentee, manifestly unfair indentured servitude of Gila Community College.

It’s time for the leaders of this community to take a stand — and force a change.

On today’s front page, education writer Suzanne Jacobson lays out the outrageous confusion and injustice of the administration of the college, caught in a demeaning, exploitive relationship with Eastern Arizona College.

The administrators in far-away Safford continue to treat the Gila Community College Board with careless incompetence. As one example, in a roughly two-week period, the figures issuing from the black hole of Safford showed the Gila Community College budget swinging sickeningly from a $2-million surplus to a $2-million deficit — all with no explanation.

At the moment, the Alice in Wonderland budget has morphed again to produce a $500,000-deficit — but who can trust any of the figures when one pill makes them smaller and another makes them tall?

Consider a couple of underlying figures that reveal the real political payoff in Eastern Arizona College’s sweetheart deal administering Gila Community College, which fell just short of having the assessed value and population base needed to form an independent community college district under state law.

Eastern currently gets more state funding per student than any other community college in the state, and is building a brand new nurse training facility. By contrast, Gila Community College gets about half as much money per student as the average community college. From that atrocious and unjust pittance, the college must pay wealthy Eastern Arizona College a 25-percent administrative fee. Outrageous.

The high-handed profiteering of Eastern Arizona College has left the Gila Community College Board frustrated. Reminds us of the recipe for growing mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed, well, pungent substances.

The hamstrung Gila College Board, groping through that deliberate darkness as best they could, boosted tuition 30 percent, curtailed waivers for seniors and resorted to staff cuts — although they still don’t know how much money they really have to spend. Hopefully, those new fees won’t undermine the college’s remarkable growth in recent years.

An attorney for the county is reportedly looking into the wild fluctuations in budget numbers, which is the smallest start on a vital problem.

Now, it’s possible that the administrators over at Eastern Arizona College will be struck blind on the road to Damascas, and so will resolve to begin treating students at Gila Community College fairly. Miracles do happen and we heard there’s a unicorn running loose with the red squirrels atop Mount Graham.

But while we’re waiting for the miracle, we hope that community leaders across the board will get to work solving the underlying problem by forcing the state legislature to give Gila Community College the same autonomy and resources enjoyed by every other system in the state.

Arizona’s budget nightmare

We’ve always hated those movies when the hero suddenly wakes up from the dream — not dead after all.

But at the moment, we’re kind of hoping someone will wake us up from the ridiculous state budget nightmare and reveal that none of it was real.

So after six weeks of negotiation and hand wringing, the Republican Legislature delivered to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer the same budget she vetoed with much clenching of teeth about six weeks ago. Meantime, the minority Democrats have sat smugly on the sidelines with their own, doomed budget proposal, while they delight as the Republican Civil War overwhelms their responsibilities to the citizens who elected them.

On the face of it, the Republicans in the Legislature insist they’re taking a principled stand against raising the sales tax in the face of a recession. But some of the legislative subplots have revealed a heartbreaking exercise of politics as usual, even in the midst of such a crisis.

One footnote that slipped into the special session budget, even though it does nothing at all to balance the budget, lowers the property tax rate on businesses from 22 to 16 percent, which has the effect of raising property taxes on homes. Now, you can make a case for easing the tax burden on business and for examining the effect of impact fees on affordable housing — but the inclusion of those booby traps in the special session budget bill reveals a breathtaking irresponsibility.

So please, please: Someone pinch us — and say it ain’t so.

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