Pearce a lot of things, but he’s no friend of ‘excelling schools’ - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Pearce a lot of things, but he’s no friend of ‘excelling schools’

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Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 4:00 am | Updated: 11:17 am, Thu Jul 28, 2011.

Thirty million dollars.

So-far untold millions in additional dollars.

What do those figures represent? The amount of education funding Mesa schools would not have if it were up to Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who represents Mesa's District 18 in the state legislature.

And who is in the midst of a recall.

A recall that brought a response from him that included this:

"I was born in Mesa and share the values of our great community: freedom, excelling schools, vibrant economic growth, job creation, balanced budgets, strong law enforcement and secure borders."

Russell Pearce might be many things, including some of what he wrote above. But one thing is clear: He is no friend of "excelling schools."

Presiding over the state Senate, Pearce was instrumental in cutting the state's K-12 budget, including millions from the Mesa Public Schools' budget.

A budget that has absorbed close to $50 million in cuts over the last two years prior to this current year.

And this year? Another $20 million, under the leadership of a man who laughably claims he's for "excelling schools."

Look, we all know the country's been plunged into an economic condition not seen since the Depression. And all segments of our society - including public schools - have had to take the pain of cuts.

But imagine for a moment what Mesa schools would look like if Pearce really had his way.

Subtract the millions he helped cut from the budget. Now, subtract the $31 million the federal stimulus funds provided. Now, subtract the untold millions the state sales tax increase provided.

When you do that, you come up with what Russell Pearce really wanted for Mesa Public Schools: a budget that would constrain the district beyond the already sizable personnel cuts, a budget that might explode class sizes.

Because, you see, Pearce was an active opponent, one of the leaders in fact, of the sales tax vote, heading the Ax the Tax vote. And he has consistently railed against federal stimulus monies - even as those monies helped him "balance the budget with no gimmicks," as he proudly touts.

The same money that has saved teaching and support jobs in Mesa Public Schools. The same money Pearce said "we'd be better off without."

This is the man who says he is for excelling schools in Mesa.

Parents in Mesa Public Schools will soon attend their children's back to school night, and in just a couple of weeks, the school year begins.

Take a look around at the number of teachers in the school. Ask your kids about class sizes.

Then imagine what your kids' schools would look like if Russell Pearce had gotten his way, and ask yourself this question:

Is this the man you want to represent you in the state Senate?

• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

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