Schools turn to lobbying
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 27, 2006
Want to ensure they are heard
Carrie Watters and Ofelia Madrid
School district lobbyists at the state Legislature are an increasing phenomenon,
according to state Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa.
He should know. Nine of 10 Joint Technical Education districts joined forces
last summer and hired three lobbyists, in part to campaign against a bill
Anderson sponsored for vocational education reform.
The group includes West-MEC, the West Valley's technical education district that
includes Phoenix districts Cartwright, Deer Valley Unified, Glendale Union,
Paradise Valley Unified and Pendergast Elementary.
"It did raise a few eyebrows when they hired three lobbyists," said Anderson, a
12-year lawmaker. "Then EVIT (East Valley Institute of
Technology) hired their lobbyist. It did seem a bit much. Obviously, they want
to make sure their interests are represented at the Capitol."
He questioned the ethics of public entities, including districts, lobbying.
West-MEC officials fronted $17,000 for a lobbyist as part of the vocational
district's consortium. Superintendent Greg Donovan said they are dollars well
spent at a critical time for vocational education in Arizona.
State legislators in 1990 passed a law to allow districts to pool their
resources for vocational education. Legislators like Anderson are now trying to
clarify issues like the definition of a vocational education class, which
receives greater state funding than a typical class.
Anderson's bill, in part, would require these classes to be 150 minutes, rather
than more traditional 50 minutes.
"That doesn't fit any schedule in the state of Arizona," Donovan said.
Vocational districts, through lobbyists, will push the point this legislative
Technical education districts aren't the first public school districts to send
lobbyists to the state Capitol. Large school districts like Paradise Valley have
had lobbyists for years, and the Arizona School Board Association and the
Arizona Education Association, the teachers union, represent education
The Deer Valley, Paradise Valley and Pendergast districts also are among the 10
districts making up the Valley Schools Lobby Group, which lobbies for more money
The consortium is just another way to shine more attention on education funding
issues, Paradise Valley parent Laurie Smith said.
She is on the Paradise Valley committee made up of administrators, teachers and
parents that meets periodically with lobbyist Jim DiCello to discuss legislative
"If they can work with Republican leadership, that makes it all the more likely
that the interest of public education will be heard," Smith said.
In Paradise Valley, the School Board recently adopted a broad legislative agenda
that includes funding to pay for increased costs in retirement, health care and
transportation, support for a phase-in of all-day kindergarten and full funding
for the cost of educating English-language learners and special-education
Deer Valley also enjoys closer ties to the state Legislature because 15-year
governing board member Ted Carpenter is a state representative.
Glendale Union, which has nine high schools in Phoenix and Glendale, does not
have a paid lobbyist.
Gene Dudo, the administrator for finance, is the district's designated public
lobbyist and heads to the Capitol if there is a bill that would affect the
district. He has been there once this legislative session to weigh in on a
funding bill for English language learners.