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Tucson desegregation plan gets flak from overseer

TUCSON, Ariz. — The latest desegregation plan adopted by the Tucson
Unified School District has been rejected as inadequate by an expert appointed
to oversee the plan by a federal judge.

The overseer said a plan on magnet schools approved by the district’s board in
September limits options for meaningfully achieving racial balance in the
district’s schools. Special master Willis Hawley said it will, in fact, have
little or no impact, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

The board rejected a magnet plan created by the Hawley before adopting its own.
Hawley’s plan would have eliminated popular programs at several schools.

Hawley has argued the district needs to “bite the bullet” and eliminate
several magnets so that new ideas can be pursued.

Efforts to create a racially balanced school system in Tucson date to 1974. The
district has been under a court desegregation order for decades after parents of
Hispanic and black students filed class-action lawsuits. An agreement to end
court oversight approved by a federal judge in February included a four-year
plan to desegregate the district.

Magnet schools focus on a specific academic area or learning environment and
are designed to encourage students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to
come together outside their neighborhoods. But three magnet schools that were
spared by the district are each more than 85 percent Hispanic. A school is
considered integrated when it has less than 70 percent of one ethnic group
enrolled.

District administrators created their own plan after hearing pleas from parents
who spoke of generations of families attending the same school and the values
that their programs promoted.

Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said the existing 70 percent standard for
integration is hard to achieve with the city’s current racial makeup.

“When the suit was filed nearly 40 years ago, minority student groups
comprised between 20 to 25 percent of total student enrollment in TUSD,” he
wrote in a recent memo.

Latino students make up 64 percent of the school population and
African-American students account for 7 percent.

The district hadn’t yet responded to Hawley’s latest letter. Hawley has agreed
not to complain to the judge until a new comprehensive magnet plan is created
next year.

___

Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com

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