Mesa parents, disgruntled over news about possible increased class sizes and teacher pay cuts, are collecting signatures and contacting lawmakers to plea for better education spending.
The effort began this week in the Dobson Ranch subdivision. Alma Elementary School parent Miki Smith said she has 200 signatures. She hopes to gather more than 500 during next week’s spring break.
The letter on the petition is addressed to Gov. Janet Napolitano to remind her of her promise to improve education during her State of the State and inaugural addresses, Smith said.
"I want her to remember these as she works with the budget for the upcoming year," Smith said.
Already, Tempe Union High School District and Mesa Unified School District officials have said they may need to cut positions to keep up with growing health insurance premiums and retirement fund contributions without more funding from the state. Scottsdale Unified School District officials confirmed Friday that 175 teaching positions will be cut to offset a shortfall.
In Mesa, several parents held up signs that read, "Don’t axe our teachers" and "Cut red tape, not teachers" during an event at Washington Elementary School on Friday afternoon.
"We want to drive home to parents that we need to get in touch with our legislators," said Washington mom Wendi Clement. "Weaker budgets make for weaker programs which makes for weaker students and a weaker nation."
The parent effort in Mesa falls in a week the school district and its staff halted contract negotiations because the Legislature has not completed a budget for fiscal 2004, which begins in July. It is impossible to come up with salary schedules without those numbers, the two sides said.
The staff and teachers are also contacting Legislators with a postcard and e-mail drive announced this week.
One legislator, Rep. Warde Nichols, R-Chandler, said the Republican budget suggestion does give more money — $195 million — to kindergarten through 12 th-grade education next year, but the schools need to wisely spend it. He believes school districts are telling the communities they’re facing $2 million to $30 million shortfalls to scare them.
"I think a lot of that can fall into overspending," he said.
Districts, however, would not get the 2 percent inflationary funding in the Republican budget that some people have said is required by the voterapproved Proposition 301.
Chuck Essigs, adviser to the Mesa superintendent, said school districts will get to spend very little of that $195 million because of tax issues and funding in other areas being taken away.