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Parents group presents education scorecard for Az lawmakers

40 of 90 voted against funding public education 100 percent of the time

"Lawmakers need to be held accountable for how much they’ve done to support public education during the state’s budget crisis," the leader of a parents group said in Phoenix on Wednesday.

"When parents start to get mad at their principals or their superintendents or their schools boards because of what is happening at their children’s schools, we want them to remember who really is to blame for the predicament we face," said Ann-Eve Pedersen, president of the Arizona Education Network.

Her group held a news conference to release a scorecard rating lawmakers for their votes on funding education during 2009.

Tallying votes on 21 bills dealing with public education funding, the group looked at whether lawmakers voted for or against and whether a bill provided money for or took money away from public education. The group considered votes for funding or against cuts to be for public education and a votes against funding or for cuts to be against public education.

The results: 40 of 90 state lawmakers voted against public education in the group’s estimation 100 percent of the time. All of them are Republicans.

Among those legislators who voted against education funding are local representatives to the state house Senator Al Melvin and Representative David Stevens.

Jen Darland, the group’s vice president, said the results should alarm students, teachers and parents and call attention to large class sizes and cuts in staff and services that stem from budget cuts.

"It’s a harsh reality," Darland said.

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Paul Boyer, a spokesman for the House Republican majority, said GOP lawmakers have had to make difficult choices in addressing the widening gap between spending and revenues with little help from Democrats.

"If we don’t work on fixing our structural deficit, we are going to continue to have huge problems in the future," he said.

Rep. Rae Waters, D-Ahwatukee, said education cuts are shortsighted and will have devastating effects.

"In the next year and the following years we need to make education a priority in this state again," she said.

Pedersen, who is a member of TucsonSentinel.com's board of directors, noted that things have gotten even worse for public education in 2010, including the elimination of all-day kindergarten. If voters don’t approve Proposition 100 on May 18, which would temporarily raise the state sales tax by 1 cent per dollar to help plug the budget hole, schools will face grave threats, she said.

"I agree we are going through a difficult time right now and everyone has to make sacrifices," Pedersen said. "But you have also got to remember that we are talking about children. They don’t get to do third grade or do fourth grade over again. This is it for them."

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Christine Harvey

Ann-Eve Pedersen of Arizona Education Network

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The full study and its methodology can be found at AEN's website.