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Pro-education group: Don’t be fooled, legislators voted against public education

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The Arizona Education Network, one of several groups that have been fighting cuts to schools, said 59 of the state’s 90 legislators flunked their tests when it comes to funding the state’s education system.

A report card released today by the group showed 59 lawmakers – all Republicans – voted “100 percent” against public education’s interest during the recently completed legislative session.

The group’s president Ann-Eve Pedersen said the goal for 2012 will be to make sure voters know not to buy into lawmakers’ statements on the campaign trail that they support public education.

“It is these 59 legislators who are voting to close our schools, to cram our children into supersized classrooms, to fire our teachers, librarians and counselors, to deny children access to (state-funded) all-day kindergarten, to strip off schools of basic (supplies) like paper, pencils and books, and to make our universities unaffordable to the middle class,” she said.

In coming up with the scorecard, the group looked at three bills — all budget measures — that it said would have real impact on education funding.

The legislative session ended April 20.

Dominated by fiscally conservative Republicans, the Legislature enacted a budget that includes more than $1.3 billion in cuts to state spending, including K-12 and higher education.

The final spending plan, which was negotiated with Gov. Jan Brewer, cut about $500 million from education funding. Many GOP legislators defended the cuts as necessary in correcting a festering budget imbalance and argued the state could not afford to keep spending the way it has been.

But the Arizona Education Network anticipated that lawmakers would try to tout their pro-education credentials in next year’s elections.

“They’ll pose in photographs with our children and they’ll put those photographs on their campaign literature,” Pedersen said. “And if they are asked about these cuts and their embarrassing voting records, they will just say, ‘Well, we didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t any money’.”

Actually, legislators had plenty of choices, Pedersen insisted.

One would have been to adopt the governor’s budget proposal, which contained about $116 million less in cuts to education, she said. Another option would have been to close “tax loopholes” and increase state revenues.

The group also said the cuts lawmakers made are driven by ideology — not by necessity. As proof of its claim, the group cited the passage of legislation to limit expenditure increases to growth in population and inflation, which it said would lock in the cuts made this year.

“I think there is a hostility to any form whatsoever of public spending,” Pedersen said.

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