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Education lobbies bring parents, others to Capitol to press their case

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Beth Brizel showed at the State Capitol on Tuesday hoping to get a rundown of the legislative process but also to hear from a few legislators about what she considers the crippled status of the state’s education system and what is being done about it.

“I’m also not liking the fact that millions are being taken from every single school,” she said. “The schools are going to have to make up for it.”

Brizel, parent of a sophomore at a Phoenix high school, joined other parents and educators at a day at the Capitol organized by the Arizona School Boards Association and the Arizona Coalition for Quality Education.

The event was designed to help them better understand the legislative process and give them a chance to voice their concerns to a panel of state legislators: Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson, Rep. Kate Brophy-McGee, R-Phoenix, Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek and Rep. Doug Coleman, R-Apache Junction.

“We in the education community oftentimes talk about how we need a little more funding or how we need to stop the tax breaks,” said Geoff Esposito, a governmental relations analyst for the Arizona School Boards Association. “But legislators have heard that refrain and they’re starting to tune it out.”

Paul Stanton, superintendent of Humboldt Unified School District, said that the retention of Arizona’s teachers is most important given the budget cuts in recent years.

“We’re asking the legislators to look at the decisions that they make and the budgets that they choose and the funding to help support public education in the state of Arizona,” Stanton said.

Jesus Rubalcava, president of the Arizona School Boards Association, said that his organization was founded because of the budget cuts. As a special education teacher in Phoenix, Rubalcava said he has seen the harm those cuts have had on students.

“Cuts in the (budget) proposal can be detrimental to programs, especially special education,” Rubalcava said. “This is because some of the services that are utilized like special education are considered non-classroom dollars, so we have to take away from that into what is considered classroom dollars.”

The four legislators addressed topics including how to kill an unwanted bill, the importance of keeping in touch with one’s legislators and why there isn’t a simple solution to budget cuts.

After the panel discussion, Carter said the budget situation is complicated. listen

“I think right now we’re in a somewhat difficult situation because what’s happening is bills are moving through the legislative process that have a fiscal impact on the schools and yet we have not negotiated a final budget for the state of Arizona,” Rep. Carter said. “So while we’re trying to negotiate a budget for the state, it’s really difficult to pass legislation that has a fiscal impact when we don’t even know what the state budget is going to be at this point.”