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Poll: Arizonans want education, water to be top issues for lawmakers

Letting his son and daughter play Tuesday in puddles next to a spot where the Arizona Canal pours over a manmade waterfall, Michael Meacham said Arizona lawmakers should make water more of a priority.

“It’s the only way we can sustain ourselves in the desert,” he said.

Meacham also said he’s so concerned about the state of public education in Arizona that he plans to send them to private schools.

“Politics are getting in the way of everything,” he said.

A poll released Tuesday by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University suggests that education and water are the top concerns on the minds of Arizonans as state lawmakers meet.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents ranked K-12 education as a very high or high priority. Eight out of 10 said Arizona spends too little on education, the poll found.

Nearly nine out of 10 ranked maintaining adequate water and water quality as a very high or high priority.

Eight out of 10 ranked law enforcement and public safety as a very high or high priority.

The poll surveyed 754 Arizona adults to assess their opinions and concerns on a variety of issues ranging from health care to arts to law enforcement. They were told to rate issues very high, high, low or very low priority.

The poll had a margin for error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

David Daugherty, the Morrison Institute’s associate director, said the results on education reflect an impression that public education in Arizona isn’t on par with other states.

Sarah Porter, director of the Morrison Institute’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, said she thinks part of the reason respondents rated water as a priority is the prolonged drought and concerns about a looming shortage.

“Potential for cuts to take place on water supply makes people think about water,” she said. “It’s a good thing people are paying attention.”

Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, said there are times when people care about water and times when they don’t.

“I am delighted that water is in the top two,” she said. “It’s a positive way of moving forward in water issues.”

Ferris said the Legislature hasn’t considered many significant bills on water in the past few years.

“I think it’s because there are no legislators to be a leader on water issues or have taken the time to learn the intricacies,” she said.

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