TUSD still unequal, longtime critic says
Arizona Daily Star
Aug. 29, 2007
Opinion by Ernesto Portillo
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/198630.php
Unified School District continues to move toward possibly shedding the
29-year-old federal mandated desegregation order. Maria Mendoza, a key player in
its creation, doesn't believe it.
state's largest K-12 school district, is still not providing an equal education
for all its students, she believes.
district has been experimenting with our children," said Mendoza. "I'm not
afraid to say it."
desegregation to bilingual education, Mendoza has never been afraid to say
what's on her mind regarding TUSD and public education.
70, is one of the original plaintiffs in the 1978 federal class-action lawsuit
against TUSD. In the lawsuit, Latino and black parents argued their children
were receiving an unequal education. They fought hard for the district to
racially integrate its schools.
remedy, the district chose busing and created magnet schools. After years of
legal wrangling, a federal judge last week gave TUSD 30 days to show it has
complied with the desegregation order.
said she doubts TUSD will prove in 30 days what it has been unable to show in 30
Monday over lunch on the South Side, not far from her longtime home near C.E.
Rose Elementary on South 12th Avenue.
before the landmark federal court ruling, Mendoza had been a burr under the
district's saddle. A mother of three, Mendoza wanted her children's teachers to
use phonics to teach them reading. That's how she learned to read while
attending school in Las Cruces, N.M.
staunch supporter of "basic education." About the time the lawsuit was filed,
Mendoza challenged the district's use of "whole language" methods.
teach the children basic math, reading, science and social studies, she preached
to me over a plate of nopalitos, rice and beans. Good basic education will help
young people break the cycle of poverty and social dysfunction, she said.
that what we're trying to do? Make something of yourself?"
attorney Rubin Salter Jr., who represented the black families in the 1978
lawsuit, said Mendoza is a "one in a lifetime" person. "Maria had the vision and
the guts to take on the system," said Salter.
years ago, Mendoza helped lead the successful state voter-approved ban on
bilingual education in public schools.
who didn't get past the ninth grade but later briefly attended Pima College in
hopes of becoming a lawyer, champions education. But she didn't like the course
of public education since she worked as a teacher's aide about 40 years ago.
opened my eyes," she said.
pressure began mounting against TUSD in the years before the 1978 court order,
Mendoza saw the issue through her unfiltered lens. Latino and black students on
the West and South sides were not receiving the same education and educational
opportunities as non-minority students on the East Side.
said TUSD's desegregation efforts still have not improved black and Latino
said busing students across town was not the answer. While desegregation has
brought some positive changes to TUSD students, "we have a lot of bright
students who are lost."
years of confronting TUSD administrators and board members, Mendoza is skeptical
the district wants to end desegregation. "There's too much money involved,"
district has received about $800 million in taxpayer funds for its magnet
schools and other desegregation programs.
money they're interested in. Not the children."
columnist Ernesto Portillo Jr. at eportillo@ azstarnet.com or 573-4242.
His blog is at go.azstarnet.com/blogs.