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With budget decisions looming, teachers union organizes rally to support education

Katie Barnes said state lawmakers should spend time with her and other teachers before making deep cuts to education funding.

“These are tough times and there are tough decisions to be made, but continuing to attack education, teachers and education professionals is wrong,” said Barnes, who teaches American history to seventh-graders at Fees Middle School in Tempe. “We work with kids and teach our subjects, so we know what we are talking about.”

On March 3, Barnes and dozens of other teachers and education leaders descended on the State Capitol for the Arizona Education Association’s March4Schools, hoping to make their case as lawmakers consider another round of budget cuts.

AEA President John Wright said cutting all-day kindergarten, AIMS intervention programs and career and technical programs would make Arizona less competitive.

“We are at risk of losing exactly the types of programs that international research says we need to be improving,” he said.
Wright said a proposed temporary 1 cent-per-dollar sales tax Arizona voters will consider May 18 would help avoid deep cuts to education.

“We want to help bridge the current budget gap by bringing revenue from sales tax and doing what we can to hold up the cuts that will really damage schools,” he said.

Chandler Republican Sen. John Huppenthal,  chairman of the Senate Education Accountability and Reform Committee, said Arizona hasn’t done enough to improve education even though its results rank above national averages.

“We have to show the public that we can produce more value, and I believe once we do that we are not going to have trouble getting more money for education,” he said.

Kirk Hinsey, an eighth-grade English teacher at Powell Junior High School in Mesa and president of the Mesa Education Association, said he’s troubled by what he calls the state’s lack of focus on adequately funding education.

“It’s a shame that in Arizona they don’t look at the funding of education as an investment; they look at it as a cost,” he said.

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