Lawmakers asked to kill Roosevelt District bill
Arizona Republic
April 1, 2008


by Betty Reid

A south Phoenix district governing board wants Arizona lawmakers to kill a bill that proposes the state take over the entire school district because of poor academic performance.

After half of the schools in the Roosevelt School District dropped into failing status in October on the state's report card, Phoenix lawmakers decided it was time to make a move to improve schools. Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix and Rep. Cloves C. Campbell, D-Phoenix, introduced House Bill 2711, which proposes that State Board of Education take charge of the 21-campus district for three years. The bill also includes four other school districts in the state.

The House of Representatives gave its approval in March. The Senate is expected to tackle the bill soon.

Two groups with opposing views had press conferences this week at the state capitol.

At least 20 individuals showed up Tuesday with a stop the bill message.

Lobbyist John Loredo, whose firm was hired to fight the bill, said: "The only option is to kill the bill. We want senators to vote no and we want the governor to veto the bill if it gets to her desk."The three lawmakers refused to budge and had their own press conference Monday at the state capital.

Rep. Campbell, whopulled his children out of Roosevelt and enrolled them elsewhere to get a better education, spoke of the urgency to pass the bill that would put the district in state receivership.

"There is a disconnect between the community, there is a disconnect between the administration and there is a disconnect between the students and the teachers," Campbell said. "And if we don't get this thing put together as soon as we can, we're going to lose another generation."

Rep. Miranda, former Roosevelt governing board president, said Roosevelt needs outside intervention.

"It's terrible what's happening to the education of those kids down there," Miranda said.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne told Roosevelt residents at a town hall in February that the district needs a new superintendent, one that would be selected by the State Board of Education under the bill. Horne pointed to 11 Roosevelt schools that fell below average on Arizona Learns in 2007.

Four schools, Brooks Academy, Cesar E. Chavez Community, Sierra Vista and T.G. Barr, fell below average three years in a row. The state will begin to oversee the schools in July. But other schools need help, too, Horne said.

Roosevelt Superintendent Mark Dowling said he had hoped the Roosevelt governing board and the sponsors of the bill would meet and hammer out issues before it reaches the Senate.

"The lawmakers have not come before the board and laid out what it is they need and what action they need the board to take," Dowling said. "Taking over the entire district will create tension between the state government and the district community and could potentially be destructive."

Roosevelt parents seem to be divided. Some want local control and support school board members they helped elect. Others want good neighborhood schools.

Reporter Scott Wong contributed to this report.