Column: TUSD punished for not being white enough

Segregation is a word that should long be dead in American society, but in the Tucson Unified School District, claims of desegregation still float around and, in reality, it’s the district’s fault that schools are subsequently failing.

In 1974, minority parents sued TUSD on the grounds that the schools were segregated, according to Tucson News Now. The parents won, leading TUSD schools to be closely monitored by the courts for the next 40 years until, in 2013 a federal judge lifted the desegregation order, according to The New York Times.

The act of desegregation sounds like a cause anyone would want to rally in favor of—all kids deserve a chance to be educated fairly—but the court case filed against TUSD did more harm than good.

According to Tucson Weekly, as of October nearly five magnet schools in TUSD face losing their magnet status because of the desegregation case. In TUSD, 34,000 of the 49,000 students that make up Tucson schools are African American and Latino, and because of this, magnet schools are at risk for losing funding since according to the court order they are not allowed to have more than 70 percent of any one ethnicity making up their student body.


Racism and segregation don’t have to strictly apply to just blacks or Latinos, but this is not an issue of white students being oppressed. Simply speaking, Tucson schools are being punished for not being white enough.

Even though the court case against TUSD happened over four decades ago, TUSD still continues to pay nearly $35,000 in legal fees per year straight out of budget since there is no money coming from grants or from Phoenix, according to Tucson News Now. It wasn’t until November that the district finally let taxpayers know that it has been paying about $4 million in court fees over the past few years.

The TUSD board hasn’t accommodated for the fact that the demographics of Tucson have drastically changed, and Arizona’s open-enrollment policies haven’t been helping.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, 41.6 percent of citizens in Tucson were Hispanic or Latino, 47.2 percent were white and five percent were black. Latinos make up 62 percent of student enrollment in Tucson schools, according to The New York Times.

Parents see that Tucson schools are failing to successfully educate their students, so the families with money go somewhere else, leaving other families behind and making TUSD schools unable to meet the desegregation case’s demands.

The solution to TUSD’s problems is simple. Instead of punishing schools for their student body, the district should fund magnet schools regardless and focus on improving academics and teacher training. These ideas are similar to the plan proposed by former TUSD teacher and board member Sylvia Campoy.

According to Tucson Weekly, Campoy is a representative for the Mendoza plaintiffs who’s plan was to promote integration, focus on closing the academic gap and for schools to be monitored to help them stay on track and achieve these goals.

So what have Campoy and other TUSD district officials done so far? Why, nothing of course.

According to the Arizona Republic, one month after Mendoza plaintiffs proposed their plan, five people including TUSD board members were scheduled to meet for a community forum on Nov. 9, but only two ever showed up. The Latino and African-American plaintiff representatives; MALDEF, the civil-rights law group who’s suing on behalf of Latino students; the Special Master who’s been overseeing the entire case; U.S. District Judge Bury and Campoy all failed to show up. 

Ochoa parent Caesar Agurrie told the Arizona Republic, “I find that very disrespectful—that the people who are supposed to be representing us, who are supposed to be fighting for our kids, refuse to come down here and talk to us and listen to us.”

The fact that the TUSD board has been ignoring and pushing off parents and students for decades is beyond unacceptable. These kids never did anything wrong and deserve to be represented, taught and cared for. The desegregation case may have been justified in its time, but that time has long since passed and it’s time the TUSD board picks up its slack and starts tackling its problems. Magnet schools are successful and it would be a tragedy to see them shut down because they aren’t white enough.

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