Group forms to
fight deeper school cuts
By Andrea Rivera
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/282762
As Tucson school districts and districts across the state grapple with current and looming budget cuts, parents and community members have galvanized to pressure the Legislature to spare public education from further cuts.
Concerned Arizona Residents for Education, or CARE, was born after Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation in January to reduce K-12 public education funding by about $133 million for the 2008-2009 school year.
Founded by Harelson Elementary School parents Lisa Ferko and Melissa Megna, and SaddleBrooke resident Carolyn Badger, CARE wants to act as a conduit of information for those interested in public education.
In addition to the current cuts, districts also have to worry about the nearly $1 billion in projected cuts to K-12 funding on the horizon for the 2009-2010 school year.
"Together we thought, 'This is a lot of information to get through and wouldn't it be great if we could have an organization to help people wade through all of this information,' " Megna said.
Megna's mother, Catalina resident Anne Leonard, and sister, Judy Leonard, also stepped in to help form CARE.
After forming just a little more than a month ago, CARE already has some 500 members.
"Right now, it's mostly people from northwest Tucson," Lisa Ferko said. "We don't exclude anyone from any part of the state."
CARE's Web site, www.azcare.info, lists contact information for legislators and the governor, keeps a calendar of upcoming events and provides information on current bills in the Legislature they believe would harm public education.
"We try to give information and give people the opportunity to voice how they feel," Megna said.
Members also attend rallies at the state Capitol in Phoenix and meet with their representatives to have open discussions about cuts to public education.
Some members of CARE were in Phoenix on Wednesday for a March4Schools rally to demonstrate how committed they are to public education.
CARE co-founder Badger is the voice of retirees.
"There's a misconception that retirees would much rather have lower taxes than be willing to pay for public schools," she said. "I think that's incorrect."
She was a middle school teacher for 35 years and would like to see parents and retirees come together for a common cause.
Ferko, who has a first-grader at Harelson in the Amphi school district, said she wishes more parents were informed.
"As a parent, I want to know more of what I can do. I wish the district could rally parents, but it can't. That's not part of their charter and it's not allowed to do that," she said in reference to the Amphi school district.
Members don't want CARE to exist much longer because they are hopeful the state Legislature will fully fund public schools.
"My biggest concern is that the cuts to public education will be so drastic that it will take years to bring standards back up," Megna said.
● Contact reporter Andrea Rivera at 806-7737 or firstname.lastname@example.org.