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Journalists, First Amendment Attorneys Say New Arizona School-Performance Grades Should Be Public

The Arizona State Board of Education is asking schools not to immediately share their newly issued letter grades. But some argue the school-performance scores are public records and can’t be withheld if someone requests them.

Some First Amendment attorneys and journalists are crying foul on a recent press release and email that went out to public school late last week asking officials not to immediately release their letter grades pending an embargo period. The release said the time was needed to allow schools to contest their grade.

Dan Barr, an attorney with Perkins Coie, said public records can only be withheld if the state can show there is an interest to confidentiality or if it’s in the best interest of the state.

"How the State Board of Education decides to time when it sends this information out to the news media and the public isn’t a sufficient interest to overcome the interest of openness here in the interest that these are public records," Barr said. 

The Arizona State Board of Education could not be reached for comment.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.