Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/sat/21026federalfailingschool.html
Kids at 25 schools can transfer to better ones
By Jennifer Sterba and Sarah Garrecht Gassen
ARIZONA DAILY STAR, October 26, 2002
Students at 25 local schools identified as needing improvement will be able
to transfer to better schools, beginning next month, under federal guidelines.
The federal list applies only to schools that receive federal Title I money,
which is allocated according to the number of students on free and reduced-cost
lunch programs in poor areas. The list uses guidelines established under the
administration in 2000.
Under the federal rules, children at the 25 schools in three districts will be
able to move to another school this year, or receive extra services, such as
tutoring, at district expense - one year ahead of a state accountability program
that applies to all schools.
Arizona already allows open enrollment, with families providing transportation
to another school. But the federal guidelines now require the districts - and
ultimately taxpayers - to foot the bill for students to leave schools not
meeting government standards.
Schools on the federal list have until Nov. 15 to notify parents that they may
move their children to a better-performing school. Principals and district
officials are now composing letters that spell out the different labels,
accountability programs and options.
"It's a lot to digest, and the issue is, do you have faith and trust in your
neighborhood school or not," said Bob Wortman, director of Title I programs and
school improvement for the Tucson Unified School District.
Local officials predict that Tucson will follow national trends and parents will
opt not to transfer their children. But districts must now set aside 5 percent
of their Title I monies for transportation and another 5 percent to pay for
extra services, such as tutoring.
"We hope parents would want to stay and help the school become better," Wortman
Some parents at Cavett Elementary School in TUSD are struggling with that
Arci Diaz has two sons in Cavett, which she attended years ago, and is active in
the parent-teacher organization and site council. She sees the school faltering
and wants to help, but is unsure what's best for her children.
"I'm just a walking question mark," Diaz said. She and her husband, Anthony,
frequently debate whether to move their sons to another school.
"We're doing everything we can for our kids," she said. "But we're not getting a
good education for our kids."
Liza Montijo said working with her son at home on reading and homework can't
make up for not learning in class.
"We're not seeing our kids succeed, and it's scary because I want my son to
graduate high school," Montijo said. "I don't want him to get to junior high and
not want to go to school anymore."
Districts must pay for transportation and extra academic services by diverting
money from their existing Title I budgets or by cutting into personnel or
"It's a plus that the kids will get extra help - I wouldn't even consider moving
him," said Jeannie Acuna, who has a 10-year-old son at Ochoa Elementary School
in TUSD, which is on the federal
Parent Monica Figueroa agrees. "I wouldn't move my boys. … They're happy here."
Districts are now figuring out which schools can take in additional students and
how to get them to the new schools.
Sunnyside has three elementary schools and one middle school where parents may
choose to transfer their children: Ocotillo, Elvira and Gallego elementary
schools and Challenger Middle School.
"We don't know yet as to who's going to request supplemental services or
transfers," said Armeda Hernandez, director of Sunnyside's No Child Left Behind
department, which includes Title I programs. "We're hoping that people are
committed to helping their school improve."
TUSD is in an unusual circumstance because enrollments at some of its schools
are dictated by a court order to desegregate the district. Attorneys are now
figuring out how to comply with the federal desegregation court order and the
federal accountability program that allows students to change schools.
TUSD has set aside about $800,000 from its Title I money to pay for
transportation and another $700,000 for extra student services, Wortman said.
Districts may spend up to 20 percent of their Title I budgets on transporting
students to better schools or offering extra services.
For the Sunnyside and Tucson unified school districts, that comes to a total of
roughly $797,000 and $3.12 million, respectively. The spending cap comes to
about $802,000 for Flowing Wells Unified School District.
* Contact reporter Sarah Garrecht Gassen at 573-4117 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Contact reporter Jennifer Sterba at 573-4191 or at email@example.com.
Go to StarNet's education site to see how the Tucson schools on the Federal list
fared in Arizona's ratings.
To learn about the new education law signed by President Bush on Jan. 8, 2002,
go to the No Child Left Behind Web site.
For general information, visit these Web sites: Tucson Unified School District,
Arizona Department of Education and U.S. Department of Education.