Former Intel CEO: The Quality of Education in Arizona Is Too Bad to Attract New Businesses | Arizona

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The former chief executive of Intel Corp. Told lawmakers and business leaders on Tuesday that Arizona wouldn’t be a real magnet for new businesses until more high school and college graduates were found.

“The education system in the United States and Arizona in particular is not particularly attractive,” Craig Barrett told members of the Arizona Commerce Authority. In fact, he said, the situation is so bad that if Intel were looking for a site to build an entirely new operation, instead of expanding its $ 10 billion presence here, Arizona wouldn’t even be on the list. the list of the top 10 choices.

He was not alone in his comments.

“The education system here is very weak,” said Doug Pruitt, managing director of Sundt Construction.

And Judy Wood, who runs Contact One, a small call center, said even her business, which doesn’t need college graduates, struggles to find Arizona high school graduates who can dial right in. a sentence.

The comments came as Governor Jan Brewer, who co-chairs the authority and has listened to criticism, proposes to cut state aid to universities by $ 170 million, or about 20% of their current public funding.

But that may not be the full extent of the problem. The Senate has already approved a budget that digs an additional $ 65 million into higher education funds. It is also cutting around $ 250 million from K-12 education, an area of ​​the budget Brewer had tried to leave untouched.

“Ultimately, I was the advocate for education,” Brewer said after the meeting. “I have led the charge to protect education. And I continue to try my best, anyone’s ability, to protect education as we move through this budget process.”

The governor said, however, that nothing Barrett or anyone else said would cause her to back down on her proposal to cut the university’s funding or cut some other part of its budget, which would halve the university’s funding. state aid to community colleges.

“We’re going to do our best with the dollars we have to provide the best education for everyone,” she said, from kindergarten to college.

Senate Speaker Russell Pearce R-Mesa also said he had no doubts about the larger cuts in education spending approved by his chamber.

On the one hand, Pearce said Barrett “doesn’t miss the mark” on the quality of education in Arizona.

“But the truth is, funding is not the full answer,” he said. Pearce said he was convinced there was enough money for education as long as the funds were used correctly.

He took issue with Barrett’s claim, however, that Arizona is in the bottom quarter of all states when it comes to the quality of its K-12 education.

“When everything is balanced, we are probably running in the middle, in the middle,” said Pearce. And he said that’s due in part to “demographics,” especially the high percentage of students in school for whom English is not their first language.

“I think we probably have a very good education system that just has challenges that a lot of other states don’t have,” he said.

The Commerce Authority is designed as a public-private partnership tasked with attracting new businesses to the state. It will replace the state’s Ministry of Commerce.

Barrett told members of the authority, however, that their work is complicated by shortcomings in the education system.

“The quality of education is extremely important to companies like Intel,” he said.

The state faces a projected gap of $ 1.1 billion in the coming fiscal year between revenue and expenditure. Brewer proposes to fill some of that with accounting and borrowing maneuvers; the Senate’s plan is based strictly on spending cuts.

Barrett said the budget problems “do not bode well for the future.”

“If you want those high paying jobs – jobs that pay two to three times the average – research your educational infrastructure to be the key,” he said.

Pruitt said the state also needs to do a better job of training those not destined to go to college, saying two-thirds of jobs at companies like his don’t require a four-year college degree. years.

“I’m a big fan of technical education, which is also very weak in Arizona,” he said. And Pruitt said it was necessary to “review the whole K-12 system to get these kids out of high school with professional skills.”

Wood said his experience trying to hire people proves graduates lack the talent to do the job.

“They have to have good grammar, good spelling, able to write full sentences because we do a lot of live (online) discussions,” she said. Wood said she found foreign students at universities to have “far superior” skills than Arizonans who came forward to look for work.

Wood said the problem, as an economic development factor, is bigger than what his business faces. “How can you get companies to come in when they look at the school system and say, ‘Where can I send my kids to school? “” she said.

One of the fallout from the budget problems is that students at the state’s three universities are going to have to pay more tuition fees, even as schools are downsized by the governor’s $ 170 million proposal alone. Brewer wouldn’t answer questions about whether this will make higher education unaffordable for many.

“The board of regents is meeting and they will determine where these tuition fees go,” Brewer said. “It’s something we’re all working on.”


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