Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Slashing education funding hurts our future


John Wright

Over the past several weeks, some legislators have decried the actions of teachers, parents and students who are voicing opposition to $133 million in cuts to Arizona’s schools.

Several members of the Legislature are inaccurately characterizing cuts made to schools in 2009 and fail to address massive cuts being considered for 2010.

Clearly, proposed cuts totaling more than $800 million are certain to increase class sizes and eliminate key programs. They already have resulted in job loss notifications for about 7,400 teachers and education support professionals.

Fortunately for Arizonans who depend on public schools and other vital state services, there is now only a shrinking group of ideologues who are promoting massive cuts to our schools.

Regrettably, legislative “leadership” – including House Speaker Kirk Adams, Senate President Bob Burns and their Appropriations chairmen – are among those wishing to slash school funding.

Recent events have shown the passion with which teachers and others involved with public schools approach their work. Beginning with an informed network of teachers and school advocates, the Arizona Education Association and its partners addressed the Legislature in early January in an attempt to identify budget solutions that would adequately protect education funding.

When attempts to join the problem-solving process were met with closed doors and no invitation to the table, the AEA, its partners, and 10,000 public school advocates marched to the Capitol.

Legislative leadership’s response lacks respect for the voices present: teachers, parents, students and community leaders – all taxpayers seeking to be a part of the process.

Arizona’s teachers, and the children they serve, are in the cross hairs of enormous funding cuts, compromising our state’s ability to train a work force prepared to compete with countries like India and China.

Arizona’s economy, much like the rest of our nation, is struggling; to solve this recession, we need to change our priorities, stop tax giveaways to corporations, and invest in Arizona’s future by ensuring adequate funding for education.

Arizona must take a comprehensive approach to the budget deficit that ensures the legacy we leave behind is something we can be proud of and provides students the tools they need to compete in today’s global economy.

Although Arizona will still rank near the bottom of every national list for public school funding, restoring funding for cuts made in 2009 and continued funding for public schools in 2010 means Arizona will be on the right path to providing children essential tools for success.

Following a blueprint that funds our schools will ensure districts can maintain after-school programs that keep children out of trouble, avoid class-size increases and continue to attract high-quality classroom teachers.

The Arizona Education Association stands ready to support any legislator’s effort to protect public schools and other vital services.

John Wright is president of the Arizona Education Association (www.arizonaea.org).

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