Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MALDEF and Mendoza Plaintiffs File Objection to TUSD School Closures

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 11:35 AM

Yesterday, the Mendoza plaintiffs filed an objection to the Tucson Unified School District request to the federal court for approval of the 11 schools the governing board voted to close at the end of this school year.

Here is the objection:

Doc_1423_Mendoza_Plaintiffs__OBJECTION_to_TUSD_Request_for_Approval_of_School_Closures.pdf

Here are the exhibits filed with the objection:

Doc_1423-1_Exhibit_1_Spreadsheet.pdf

The objection, filed by Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) attorneys on behalf of the Mendoza plaintiffs, says that while the district needs to cut $17 million from its budget. the school closures only save $4 to $5 million and no plan has been released on how the district will further cut. But at heart in MALDEF's objection is that the district didn't use the Unitary Status Plan to guide the process, especially in continuing to advance integration and help English Language Learners:

"TUSD fails to explain how it intends to meet the remaining shortfall of $12-13 million dollars. The District rushes to close schools causing disruption to thousands of students without a plan for closing the entire deficit and without adequately considering the impact of the closures on its constitutionally imposed mandate to increase integration in the District. The District has failed to use the Master Plan and school closure “process” to meaningfully advance integration by utilizing the strategies provided in the joint Unitary Status Plan including magnet schools, shaping of attendance boundaries, feeder patterns, clustering, open enrollment and the location of certain educational programs such as dual language programs. The “process” the District utilized for deciding which schools to close was flawed as it neglected to consider these critical factors. The District should not be allowed to proceed with its school closure plan until it effectively utilizes the strategies incorporated in the USP for achieving integration.

MALDEF is asking the federal court to force TUSD to wait on school closures until it looks at the process through the lens of the desegregation plan and states that the district's closure process was flawed:

On November 20, “the Board initiated the closure process for eight schools” and at the same meeting it received “preliminary information on ethnic and racial enrollment of the remaining schools if all of the proposed school closures were approved.” (Notice and Request for Approval at 4, 5.) An assessment of how closures could maximize integration should have been part of the discussion around school closures from the onset of the District’s planning and certainly this should have been a critical factor to consider during the focus group meetings which took place beginning in August 2012.

And yes, MALDEF agrees with many parents out there that if you're going to close their kid's school and send their kids to a different school, the receiving school better be High Performing to Performing schools:

However, both Maxwell and Safford are identified as School Improvement schools requiring specialized attention
to improve their academic achievement. TUSD’s characterization that transferring students from the aforementioned schools will be attending higher performing ones masks the true challenge these students will face. These students’ education will be disrupted as they transition away from their friends, teachers and networks of support to schools that are not performing up to par. These students should be transferring to schools with grades of A and B to counteract the potential negative impact of losing their support networks from the closing schools. TUSD has not undertaken any analyses of the impact the 2010 school closures had on students affected by the closures. At a meeting with District counsel, the District admitted that it has not undertaken any analysis that would provide guidance on how to make improvements for student transitions when schools are closed. It should not be
permitted to perpetuate that omission going forward.

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