Romero: TUSD inequities should prompt public input
The quality of our education system is critical to our children's future as well as the economic, cultural, and social success of our region. As Nelson Mandela once said, "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." It is with this in mind that I share with you some information regarding the Tucson Unified School District and changes pending in our local system. These include proposed school closures and educational equity within our district.
As a TUSD parent, I urge all residents to get involved regarding the issues facing the district today and make your voices heard. Public hearings dealing with the district's Unitary Status Plan and educational equity will be held Monday 11/26, Tuesday, 11/27, and Wednesday 11/28, with details listed below. Here is my take on a few issues:
Recently, TUSD administration published a list of potential school closures. This list includes three neighborhood schools within Ward 1 alone, with several additional proposed closures in the greater South and Southwest areas of our region.
Three local elementary schools on Tucson's Westside that made the potential closures list are within 1 mile of each other, and service several historic barrios in our community. Manzo Elementary, Menlo Park Elementary, and Brichta Elementary are each unique neighborhood schools home to innovative student-run sustainability programs and recent capital improvements by Pima County and the City of Tucson. If carried out, these closures will funnel students into Tully Elementary, consolidating several sites with exceptionally high Latino populations and further exacerbating district segregation.
According to the Arizona Department of Education, nearly 85 percent of students in Wards 1 & 5 (representing Tucson's West and South sides, respectively) are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Per the 2010 census, these same wards have the highest populations of adults with no high school diploma, and of young persons (ages 18-24) that are not in school and have no high school diploma.
While I understand that the district is facing financial challenges, the aforementioned education statistics are not acceptable in our community. Closures, if deemed necessary, must consider these issues and more. The Governing Board set public hearings on the potential closures for Dec. 8 and Dec. 10, before final votes are taken. Please visit http://www.tusd1.org/contents/distinfo/masterplan/publichearings.asp to learn more and speak out on the proposed closure plan.
The state must put an end to the four-hour English immersion block and reinstate bilingual education for English language learners.
In the case of English immersion, English learners are separated from their peers to be taught in an isolated environment without the same access to traditional core subject courses. This puts English learners at an additional disadvantage as they move through their educational careers. Studies have demonstrated that bilingual education is far more effective than English immersion, and separating students based on native language has serious implications for equitable student support and services.
Mexican American Studies (mas)
The recently eliminated Mexican American Studies program in TUSD was and continues to be one of the most highly acclaimed programs nation-wide with respect to closing the achievement gap for Latino students. In a district that is majority-minority, evaluating and promoting programs that advance youth achievement is critical to the success of our overall student body.
Students that see themselves reflected in a culturally, socially, and historically relevant curriculum have demonstrated higher engagement and participation, according to outside analysis and TUSD's own internal evaluations. Our community pushed for the creation of MAS in response to the clear and pressing need for greater educational equity within the district. These inequities have not disappeared, and until they do it is important to continue advocating on behalf of programs that address the diverse needs of our young people. Reinstating Mexican American Studies is critical to moving towards a more equitable and effective district for all.
Please consider attending one of the following public hearings to address the Unitary Status Plan and educational equity within the district. If you cannot make the public hearings this week, please share your comments online at http://18.104.22.168/usp/index.asp (read the entire plan here: http://22.214.171.124/usp/Documents/usp.pdf)