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375 protest education cuts

Citizen Staff Writer



About 375 people rallied at Amphitheater High School Thursday night to denounce cuts to public education that were included in the $580 million slashed from the state budget by the Arizona Legislature last week.

The Republican-dominated Legislature approved the cuts to help offset a projected $1.6 billion budget deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Democrats in the Legislature called for the rally – one of four held around Arizona – as a prelude to a bigger event Feb. 26 at the state Capitol.

No Republican legislators attended Thursday night’s event.

Cuts to K-12 public school districts around the state totaled about $133 million. Another $142 million was cut from the state university system.

More and bigger education cuts likely will come in 2010 to help trim a projected $3 billion budget deficit.

“There is a public perception out there that the legislative leadership is trying to dismantle public education,” Linda Ball, an educator for 26 years, told the 15 Democrat lawmakers at the event.

Private charter schools will benefit from the cuts to the public schools,” she said.

“You’re saving a dime to spend a dollar,” said Fred Ebeling, chairman of the Pima Council on Aging Advisory Committee.

Audience members were united in their criticisms of the Republican cuts, regardless of party affiliation.

“As a Republican and fiscal conservative, I am appalled,” Todd Jaeger, assistant to the Amphitheater Public Schools superintendent, said.

“There is conservatism, and then there is ignorance.”

Former Democratic legislator Ted Downing said the public education cuts will come back to haunt the state – and legislators – in the form of highercosts to run the corrections system.

“There is $2.5 million being spent on people in the corrections system every day” now, Downing said.

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