News Column

Latinos Support Latest Plan for TUSD Balance

Nov. 13, 2012

Jamar Younger

The Latino plaintiffs in the Tucson Unified School District's desegregation case have expressed satisfaction with the latest plan to bring racial balance to the district's schools.

The plaintiffs were particularly pleased with a provision calling for the implementation of a "culturally relevant" curriculum for black and Hispanic students, according to an attorney for the group.

The detailed proposal, called the Unitary Status Plan, was filed in federal court Friday and is the latest effort to bring an end to TUSD's decades-long desegregation case.

It calls for the district to increase racial and ethnic diversity in its schools, promote integration in magnet schools and programs, improve the diversity of administrators and reduce disparities in handling student discipline.

It appears the district, plaintiffs and other parties involved reached a consensus on most of the issues addressed in the plan.

Although the plan doesn't directly address TUSD's banned Mexican American Studies program, it does provide a framework for the district to reinstate similar classes, which would benefit Latino students, said Nancy Ramirez, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

"This recognizes the important role the courses play in engaging students, improving graduation rates and closing the academic gap," said Ramirez, the Western regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The inclusion of the classes and language describing the new version of the courses was part of a negotiation between the groups involved in creating the plan, she said.

"When you negotiate a deal with different parties, you're trying to balance one party's interest versus another," she said.

There's also a requirement that the district designate or hire a person who will oversee implementation of these courses.

It requires the district to implement the culturally relevant classes by the beginning of the 2013 school year.

TUSD's original Mexican American Studies classes were dismantled in January after they were banned by state law.

Overall, the proposed unitary status plan is more specific and has more enforcement provisions than the previous decree, Ramirez said.

The plaintiffs were concerned because some of the requirements in the plan don't outline specific goals for the district in some areas, she said.

For example, instead of saying the district should increase Latino and black enrollment in gifted classes, it says TUSD should set a numerical goal for how many students it would enroll in those courses.

"We want the district to propose annual goals for Latinos who are enrolled in those courses," Ramirez said.

Still, the plan not only requires the district to carry out different plans within the proposal, but the district also has to prove it implemented those plans.

"It has a lot more teeth in it than what was previously in place," Ramirez said. "A number of provisions provide for more transparency and accountability."

The Latino plaintiffs' sentiments echoed similar opinions expressed by the black plaintiffs and most of the TUSD school board members, who all were satisfied with the overall plan despite showing concerns for different provisions.

Rubin Salter Jr., an attorney for the black plaintiffs, said the proposal was a "well-written, designed plan" and lauded it for taking steps to protect black and Latino teachers and administrators during layoffs.

Several TUSD board members reached over the weekend also said they were satisfied with the plan, although one board member disagreed with the creation of culturally relevant courses while another said the requirement for the courses was too vague.

Read the plan

The proposed special plan to help bring an end to TUSD's decades-old desegregation case is available for public review. The Unitary Status Plan is available in English and Spanish.

To read the report online, go to www.tucsonusp.com

The website lists ways the public can comment. Public comments must be received by Nov. 28.

Also, the plan will be available in the main office of each TUSD school.

Forums scheduled to discuss plan

There will be three public forums to discuss the plan. Each forum will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The meetings will be:

-- Nov. 26 -- Tucson High Magnet School, 400 N. Second Ave.

-- Nov. 27 -- El Pueblo Regional Center, 101 W. Irvington Road.

-- Nov. 28 -- Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega.

The final version of the plan must be approved by a federal judge.



Source: (c)2012 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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