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150 gather at rally to promote education as state faces budget cuts

As the state grapples with a budget crisis in which 4,000 public school teachers and staff members were given pink slips in Arizona, Tucson area teachers and parents gathered Sunday to take action to save those jobs.

The rally and picnic were at Cañada del Oro Riverfront Park, 551 W. Lambert Lane in Oro Valley. About 150 attended.

Sunday’s rally also kicked off another pro-public education program, the Join Hands for Public Education, a statewide campaign sponsored by parent-citizen groups throughout Arizona, said Carolyn Badger, 66, a retired middle school teacher from California, who is a founding member of Concerned Arizona Residents for Education, CARE.

CARE sponsored Sunday’s rally.

The Tucson Join Hands kickoff was one of at least two in Arizona. Another was in Phoenix.

Some 600 Tucson Unified School District teachers and staff members were given pink slips earlier this month. TUSD is the second largest school district in the state.

As part of the rally, children and adults traced their hand on colored paper and wrote a pro-public education messages to Gov. Jan Brewer.

“The purpose of the rally,” Badger said, “is to show that we value public education and that we value it so much we want to protect it from budget cuts.

“We want to send a message to the governor and the Legislature that we support public education,” she said.

Badger said millions of dollars in state tax credits are granted to Arizonans annually, including corporate tax credits for donations to private schools, and those credits should be suspended and the money saved should be passed on to public schools.

“The governor and the Legislature should do everything they can to make sure Arizona gets all the federal stimulus money that has been assigned to Arizona,” Badger said.

Lisa Best, 40, who came to the rally with her husband and two small children, said, “We are very concerned about the turn in education.”

Ten-year-old Griffin Ogg, a fourth-grader at Donaldson Elementary School, said, “To me the things they should spend money on are environment, education and health.

Cuts in education funding in the Tucson area are “going to make it harder to meet the needs of the students,” said Jennifer Jones, 36, an instructional support leader in Amphitheater Public Schools.

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