Citizens panel rips TUSD on deseg move
Arizona Daily Star
April 19, 2008

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By Rhonda Bodfield

Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/235059

The citizens group charged with monitoring the Tucson Unified School District's efforts to come into racial and ethnic balance has filed a 35-page report opposing the district's recent efforts to close the decades-old desegregation court case.

The document blasted the district for a "cavalier attitude" and for submitting a plan referred to as the "post-unitary plan" after the name given to districts emerging from desegregation orders that lacks "serious thought and consideration" on how the district will proceed if the current court order is lifted.

"The district is not offering anything in the post-unitary plan that is new or innovative or that it hasn't been doing already or should have been doing already," said Sylvia Campoy, chairwoman of the Independent Citizens' Committee.

"We would like to see the district be in compliance and granted unitary status, but right now, what we're seeing is a total disregard for racial balance," she said.

Although the district submitted its plan for unitary status in October, the committee did not have a chance to issue a formal report earlier because of a lack of support from the district, Campoy charged.

"It has taken individual committee members doing hours and hours and hours of work at home on our own computers and on our own time," Campoy said.

"I don't think when the district and plaintiffs set up this committee that they envisioned that we would be treated as ousted stepchildren," she said, saying the district does not want to encourage a full debate on its efforts.

Among the group's concerns:

● Desegregation funding: Accountability measures should be in place to track expenditures, including how they support desegregation efforts. TUSD receives more than $60 million a year for those efforts.

● Independent monitoring: The district should agree to provide appropriate staff and support for an independent committee to oversee district efforts or run the risk that the public will not be informed if re-segregation trends emerge.

● Staff recruitment: The district needs to draft a full plan to increase its use of minority school professionals.

Although minority students are more than 60 percent of the student pool, Anglo teachers make up 60 percent of the teaching staff.

TUSD has been under the federal desegregation order since 1978, following a class- action lawsuit filed by Latino and black parents.

TUSD spokeswoman Chryl Hill Lander said the district was unable to comment on the committee's report because officials hadn't reviewed the whole document.

Governing Board President Alex Rodriguez said he had not seen the document and could not comment on its specifics but generally disputed the notion that the board is not supportive of ensuring its schools meet racial balance to the degree possible.

"The fact of the matter is, the school district remains in the process of responding to the community and deciding how to best provide quality education, irrespective of ethnicity," he said. "We're trying to raise the bar of public education so all our kids benefit.

"The downside of being under a desegregation order is that it limits us from providing more choices for our parents, so we want such decisions placed back into local control."

● Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4118 or at rbodfield@azstarnet.com