Gcc Deserves Fair Treatment

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Advocates for Gila Community College mounted a last-ditch effort this week to ensure fair treatment for the college — and local taxpayers.

We hope you’ll help.

The state House will likely vote this week on SB 1217, which would make GCC eligible for only about one-third of the Workforce Development money to which the college is entitled.

If treated fairly, GCC would get $280,000. Instead, SB 1217 would provide local students with just $80,000.

As GCC board member Thomas Loeffler has pointed out, GCC already gets less state and federal support per student than any other college in the state.

Moreover, Gila County suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in the country — yet taxpayers here have been required to pay their share of the sales tax surcharge that for a decades has funded Workforce Development programs in other counties.

Voters a decade ago approved an increase in the state sales tax to provide money so community colleges can provide job-training programs. As a provisional college, GCC has never gotten any of that funding.

President Pro Tem Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) represents Rim Country and had previously won Senate approval of SB 1217, complete with $280,000 annually in funding to support things like the college’s training programs for nurses, firefighters, police officers, welders, beauticians, heavy equipment operators and small-business owners.

However, when the bill went before the House Higher Education Committee, representatives of other community college districts objected to the potential shift of 3 percent of the Workforce Development money to GCC.

As a result, the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee threatened to bury the bill unless Allen agreed to an amendment that would sharply limit how much Workforce money GCC could receive.

Critics based their objection in part on GCC’s status as a provisional community college, which means it gets its accreditation through its contract with Eastern Arizona College.

Sen. Allen agreed to propose an amendment to the bill to sharply limit GCC’s eligibility for Workforce funding — giving up the base funding of $200,000 received by all the other districts in the state.

However, GCC advocates launched an e-mail and letter-writing campaign this week to convince House members to accept an amendment that would eventually make GCC eligible for full funding when it accredits its own courses.

The amendment connects to the college’s parallel effort to attain independence and shed its “provisional” status. That bill will also come up for a vote in the House this week. In that case, GCC advocates agreed to do without equalization funding that other rural community colleges get now — a concession worth $6 million.

GCC advocates largely accepted that restriction, but have now rallied to oppose the restriction on Workforce funding.

Under the compromise amendment, GCC would get just $80,000 initially. However, once the college becomes independent and starts the accreditation process it would qualify for full funding — which would likely come in two or three years after applying for full accreditation.

So we urge you to write to as many lawmakers as you can — especially Rim Country’s two District 5 representatives — Chester Crandell and Barbara Barton — and to leaders in the House.

Urge them to support the community college independence bill — and any amendment that will ensure students and voters in Gila County will be treated fairly when it comes to job training programs in community colleges.

House Legislative contacts:

District 5 (includes Rim Country)

Chester Crandell: ccrandell@azleg.gov (926-5409)

Brenda Barton: bbarton@azleg.gov (926-3160)

Speaker Kirk Adams: kadams@azleg.gov (926-5495)

Speaker Pro Tem Steve Montenegro:

smontenegro@azleg.gov (926-595)

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