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AZ Public School Advocates Send Love Notes to Lawmakers

February 13, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – Supporters of public schools plan to profess their love for public education and their opposition to severe budget cuts at a Valentine’s Day rally Saturday at the State Capitol. They’ll bring holiday cards bearing positive messages about public education addressed to lawmakers and the governor.

Phoenix parent Doreen Zannis says government has a constitutional duty to make support for public schools a top priority.

"It was Thomas Jefferson who made public education part of the Constitution, because a democracy is defined of the people, for the people, by the people. And if you think about, if you don’t make sure you’ve got an educated populace, then who are you going to be governed by?"

Republicans who control the state legislature say their top priority this year is permanently ending a statewide education property tax that has been suspended for the last three years. Zannis says it doesn’t make sense to be cutting taxes which benefit education when the state is facing a $3-billion shortfall.

"My answer would be increase taxes. The compromise then should be at least to keep existing taxes in place. I mean, why in a year of such significant deficits would you cut taxes?"

Lawmakers have already chopped K-12 public school funding by more than $100 million this year, and the amount could be five times as much next year. Arizona School Boards Association spokesperson Tracey Benson says the Dysart district west of Phoenix has a worst-case scenario.

"Class sizes would have to be at least doubled to absorb the reduction. And that would mean reducing the teaching staff in half. Or, all employees would have to take at least a 23-percent pay reduction."

Benson says it’s still unclear how much the federal economic stimulus package would reduce the proposed cuts.

Zannis will be a speaker at the rally.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ