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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Failed State-Arizona

Education advocates take on lawmakers who voted against funding for public schools

The next time a state legislator running for office claims that he or she supports public education, you may want to check the campaign rhetoric against a handy list released this week by the Arizona Education Network.

The public education-advocacy organization tracked the voting records of all state lawmakers during the 2009 Legislature—and discovered that out of 90 legislators, 40 voted against public-education funding 100 percent of the time.

According to Ann-Eve Pedersen, AEN's volunteer spokesperson, the assault on education funding over the last two years leads to a big question: Are these lawmakers violating the state Constitution?

According to the AEN Web site, not all of the 19 bills that went before the House and Senate regarding public education focused simply on cuts. For example, while most public schools faced the chopping block, one bill unfairly increased charter-school funding—while also protecting charter schools from further cuts. Also at issue are the millions of dollars that continue to go from taxpayers to private schools through vouchers and school-tuition-organization scholarships.

Pedersen shows off an AEN bookmark with part of the state Constitution printed on the back; that passage says that Arizona lawmakers are bound to provide funding for the development and improvement of public schools. The Constitution states: "(T)he Legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement."

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