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Arizona Education Association gives most state lawmakers a failing grade

An empty classroom is seen in an elementary school in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, April 20, 2020. Due to the coronavirus all schools in Germany were closed but will slowly reopen during the next days and weeks. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

PHOENIX — More than half of state lawmakers got a failing grade in the Arizona Education Association’s report card released Wednesday.

The report card grades current state senators and representatives on key education votes they took during the last two legislative sessions of the 54th Legislature.

“We had, unfortunately, a lot of F’s as we had a lot of legislators that did not support what our members want to see come out of the state legislature,” AEA President Joe Thomas told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

More than half of lawmakers got an F or D letter grade while the rest got an A or B. When broken down by political party, all Republicans got a failing grade and all Democrats got a passing grade.

Thomas said his group came up with the letter grades based on how state lawmakers voted on bills that affect public education policy and funding.

Those bills include SB1224 that allows students living on Native American reservations to use funds from the Empowerment Scholarship Account program to attend schools outside Arizona but within two miles of the state border. The AEA opposed the bill, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law in March.

State lawmakers were also graded on how they voted on HB2910. The bill, also signed by Ducey in March, is meant to support and set a direction for schools during closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The AEA supported that bill.

Thomas said there were a number of issues state lawmakers weren’t able to get to during this past legislative session, including approving funding for more school counselors.

Several lawmakers have called on the governor to call a special legislative session to address unresolved issues. Republicans have said they want to address issues related to the coronavirus and the economy while Democrats want to focus on police reform.

Patrick Ptak, a Ducey spokesman, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the governor’s office will be “working with the legislature on any additional legislative action” now that the House and Senate have adjourned.

Thomas said if there is a special legislative session, he hopes more funding will be approved for schools as they prepare to reopen for the upcoming academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to have additional funding to make sure that we have the personal protective equipment for our school employees and the disinfectant and the safety equipment to make sure that our school buses, our hallways and our classrooms are safe for students to be in,” he said.

“Any talk of tax cuts or reductions to school revenue needs to be a non-starter right now. We need to invest in our schools, so we can open them safely.”

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