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AZ Education Cuts Spur Citizen Involvement in State Government

March 12, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – With state lawmakers cutting public education this year and looking at making deeper cuts next year, some Arizona parents have decided to get off the sidelines and get involved in the political process. Lisa Hawkins, a Tucson mother of two, has been communicating regularly with her representatives since taking an advocacy training class.

"I think our legislators are finding this year that education is a really hot-button issue. I think they are hearing from a lot of parents who have definitely learned how to write and contact their legislators now, and beyond that are getting more informed about the issues."

Legislative leaders say cuts to schools are inevitable, with the state facing a $3 billion shortfall next year and education making up more than half the state budget.

School board member Carolyn Calderon, Hereford, serves the Palominas Elementary District. She, too, has taken the non-partisan advocacy training, which is offered by the Arizona School Boards Association. Calderon says proposed kindergarten cutbacks sparked her interest in contacting the legislature.

"They want to cut full-day kindergarten to half-day kindergarten. That would be a disaster. Our children in kindergarten here in Palominas, they're reading already."

Parent Lisa Hawkins has lived in several states. She says Arizona's relatively low school funding motivated her to become an education activist.

"Some of the supplies, the computer equipment, even the infrastructure like the computer bandwidth that the other schools take for granted, we don't have here yet."

More than 100 community members across the state have taken advantage of the Arizona School Boards Association advocacy training already this year.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ