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Teachers, Parents Take To The Streets To Defend Public School Funding

Arizona teachers and parents took to the streets on Wednesday in a socially distanced motor march around the Capitol to voice their concerns on efforts they say threaten education funding.

They drove around the Capitol blaring their horns from inside cars painted with messages in support of the recently passed Proposition 208, which is expected to raise millions of dollars for Arizona schools, but a bill that would cut this revenue by as much as half is making its way through Legislature

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High school teacher Jim Byrne came up from Tucson while classes out for spring break to speak against this and other efforts he believes undermines the will of voters.

“We know they won’t stop until we stop them and that’s what we are here to do," Byrne said. 

His district, Tucson Unified, can’t raise funds through property tax like some school districts in Maricopa County might be able to do, he said. So Byrne counting on revenue from Prop. 208 to help the district attract much needed certified teachers and reduce class sizes.

Asking lawmakers to provide additional funding to public schools is nothing new for Arizona teachers, said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association, the state's largest teacher union. But what is new this year is that the state is currently sit on a billion dollar surplus, and the lawmakers are pushing three bills to expand school vouchers and have proposed tax cuts. 

"That's why we are going to drive around honking our horns making sure that they hear us and they know we are not going to back down, that we deserve fully funded schools and our students deserve the opportunities that come out of those fully funded schools," Thomas said to the crowd. 

This was the second protest of its kind that teachers in the state have held this month. 

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Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.