Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, has been named the 2011 Golden Apple Winner by Arizona Parents for Education, a grassroots group promoting the state's public school online instruction programs.
More than 20,000 students participate in online instruction statewide, according to a news release put out by the group.
Pearce is facing a recall election this fall to hold onto his west Mesa seat, and he has been criticized for cuts the state Legislature made to public education.
But in the news release, Ann Robinett, president of Arizona Parents for Education, said the state is fortunate to have Pearce "fighting for our children."
"Russell has been a tireless advocate for education in our great state," she said. "His steadfast support for distance learning and educational choice has improved education for our children at every level, and we can't thank him enough for his efforts."
Previous winners of the group's Golden Apple Award have included Gov. Jan Brewer, former Senate President Tim Bee, former state Rep. David Lujan, and Sen. Linda Lopez.