Teacher and parent leaders in Scottsdale are asking the education community to take on state government, a little at a time.
"If they make it their New Year’s resolution to spend 10 minutes a week contacting their legislators, that is all it would take," said parent Eric Meyer, a Scottsdale Parent Council legislative liaison.
Meyer and Scott Barker, president of the Scottsdale Education Association, are asking parents and teachers to get more involved in all levels of government to make sure they have a voice in decisions directly affecting education.
"Our last override election, I think 7 percent of the votes came from parents," Meyer said.
From the 2004 legislative session beginning Jan. 12 — in which legislators say education funding will again be a hot issue — to November elections that include a possible $220 million capital override for rebuilding high schools, more than three Scottsdale Unified School District governing board seats and legislative elections, it is sure to be a busy year, they said.
"With 1,600 teachers, we could really make a difference," Barker said. "Oftentimes, the people who really care and know about education aren’t the ones heard."
Shannon Miller, who teaches service learning at Saguaro and Desert Mountain high schools, said most of the teachers she knows vote, but some could be put off by what they perceive as a lack of an audience.
"I think teachers in general need to be heard, in response to them getting involved, and for them to want to become more involved," she said.
Meyer advised parents to begin the year by getting involved at the Legislature, in some small way such as writing a personal letter or leaving a phone message.
"If 500 parents did that, it would make a huge difference," he said.
"It’s election year, and they’re going to want to be reelected, so if they know a big group of their constituents feel that education is important, they’re much more likely to fund it."
Sens. Slade Mead, RAhwatukee Foothills, and Harry Mitchell, D-Tempe, recently visited the parent council bringing the following advice for getting noticed at the capital:
• Personal appearance is best, followed by personal letters, then phone calls (don’t expect a return call) and then e-mails. Form letters should be avoided and emphasis should be on being a constituent.
• Don’t be afraid to speak to legislators. Visit with education lobbyists, such as the Arizona School Board Association’s lobbyists, for advice or representation.
• The Senate allows residents to register approval or disapproval of a bill heard in committee from home under "request to speak" at
Both the Senate and House provide live hearings and sessions online at www.azleg.state.az.us, where bills and their status can also be tracked from home.