Gov. Jan Brewer prioritizes economy, kids, schools

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer used her annual State of the State address Monday to focus on overhauling a troubled child welfare agency, boosting the economy and changing the way schools are funded.

Brewer said she wants to do away with the Child Protective Services agency, which she calls "broken."

The move comes after revelations that CPS failed to investigate about 6,500 of reports of abuse and neglect.

The Republican governor said she was ending the agency's oversight by the Department of Economic Security by executive order, saying the recent scandal "broke my heart and makes me angry."

"Enough with the uninvestigated reports of abuse and neglect. Enough with the lack of transparency. And enough with the excuses," she said.

Brewer praised a special team she created to investigate the problems and said more than 3,000 children have now been seen by social workers or police.

She selected the head of that team, Juvenile Corrections Director Charles Flanagan, to run a new cabinet-level agency to oversee child welfare.

During the address, Brewer touted the state's recent economic growth, casting it as a result of business-friendly legislation in recent years.

"Our message to jobs creators has been heard: Arizona is open for business," she said. "We now have more jobs, more businesses and more opportunities for growth and prosperity."

The Republican governor then asked lawmakers for a new package of business incentives, saying they are setting the tone for job creation for years to come with their actions this session.

"What we are doing today will set the tone for Arizona's economy and job creation for years," she said.

On education, Brewer wants the Legislature to pass a funding plan that includes more cash for schools that perform above standards.

Brewer says her plan will reward improved student performance and give incentives for success.

She floated a similar proposal last year but it gained little traction in the Legislature.

Brewer also has called for the state's three public universities to adopt a tuition plan that assures that students' costs don't increase during the four years it should take for them to earn a degree.

Brewer says 3 in 5 Arizona jobs will require a college degree by 2018 and the state needs to boost its education system to ensure new workers have the skills they need.

"Our children must be better prepared for the challenging and competitive world they will soon enter," she said.

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