TIME FOR A BIGTIME RACIAL DISCRIMINATION SUIT: The mismanagement
in the Tucson Unified School District has grown to monumental
proportions. Principals of a number of predominately Anglo eastside
elementary schools are now being told they'll have to give up
a total of 16 teachers next year. This as classroom size in some
eastside schools is approaching 33-34 students.
Meanwhile, on the predominantly Hispanic westside, average elementary classroom size hovers around 14-15 students, thanks to readily available Title I and desegregation money. The average amount spent on a westside student now stands at roughly $5,000, while the average spent on an eastside student has sunk to a pitiful $2,200.
Of course the UA yuppies in the politically powerful Sam Hughes neighborhood have won some measure of equality for their oh-so-special children, while the rest of Anglo Tucson suffers.
Needless to say, some eastside principals are hopping mad. But they don't dare protest publicly, given the highly charged political nature of TUSD, one of the nation's worst-run, most shabbily politicized school districts.
The sad part of all this is that Hispanics deserve a fair shake in Tucson's educational system, and the backlash this racist mess will eventually produce will only inhibit their progress. Who can blame eastside parents for thinking seriously about putting their children in private or charter schools when figures like these are known to one and all? As much as we dislike the notion of elitist private education and the wacko conservative-based charter movement, we must admit you'd have to be some kind of oblivious simpleton to ignore the short-changing of your child's education in this glaring and woefully discriminatory manner.
The truth is, all American children--even Tucson's predominately Anglo eastsiders--deserve a decent education. We must now seriously question whether a majority of TUSD students receive it, despite the efforts and dedication of some fine teachers.
It's high time for this community to seriously discuss the possibility of breaking TUSD into at least four smaller, much more manageable districts. The fact that a federal court desegregation order overlies the situation makes the struggle all that much more difficult, but something must be done.
You can start by voting out the School Board's self-serving and ineffective status quo in the next election.
TRIAL AND ERROR: Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, County Attorney Barbara LaWall and Superior Court Presiding Judge Gordon Alley are telling us they need more money to continue to do their jobs. True, and some of the reasons are beyond their control. They're also telling us there's no "fat" in any of their budgets, which is pure crap and most citizens know it.
All three outfits have consistently acted like they were flush with funds when it came time to reward high-ranking employees with fat pay raises and promotions. All three act like it would cause a constitutional crisis if anybody reviewed the acquisition of goods like new furniture. (Apparently, better chairs for high-ranking bureaucrats and interior decorators for lawyers are important components of public safety.)
But one of the biggest causes of needless expense in the crime-fighting wars is the Pima County Attorney's propensity to take a disproportionate number of cases to trial. Pima County offers plea bargains far less often than that old liberal softy, Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley. Pima County has 17 percent of the population of Arizona but generates 34 percent of the criminal trials.
Maricopa County, with 59 percent of the population, is responsible for only 45 percent of the criminal trials. While it's politically advantageous to claim you're a hardass because you take more bad guys to trial, it gets terribly expensive. Not only are taxpayers covering the cost of the prosecutor and the trial, but more often than not the defense lawyer as well. Not to mention jail and prison costs.
The net result of the County Attorney's take-no-prisoners mentality is a higher law enforcement bill across the board.
The policy harkens back to the days of LaWall's macho predecessor, Steve Neely, who loved to act like he was the meanest guy on the block. Maybe he was, but he was often the most expensive.
Anytime the usually supine media actually questioned any of his policies, Neely went into his EST-trained attack mode and intimidated them into being quiet. The net result is no one has questioned any of his, or LaWall's, policies for years.
It's now past time to do so. Are we really safer and better off than the other counties in Arizona with LaWall's tough stance against plea bargaining? If Sheriff Dupnik gets more deputies, what will be the cost of trying the new criminals he catches? Shouldn't somebody ask that question before endorsing the demands of law enforcement leaders for higher taxes?
THE SILENT TREATMENT: The pressure is building on Supervisor Ray Carroll to change his position and provide the Board of Supervisors with the fifth vote for that half-cent sales tax.
His colleagues are clearly annoyed with him. Last week, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bronson rudely tried to silence Carroll during a budget discussion. Bronson would't recognize Carroll when he repeatedly requested the floor to ask County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry a single question. Sugar Ray went around The Chair by filling out a public speaker's card, a slick move reminicent of former Republican Supervisor Greg Lunn's use of call to the audience.
STAR TREATMENT: The Arizona Daily Star is also pleading the case for the half-cent sales tax. Last Sunday, April 11, the morning daily beat up on Supervisor Ray Carroll for refusing to support the tax. On his web page, Carroll argues: "Believing that uncontrolled growth has led to uncontrolled spending and increased taxation, I have voted for conservation and against tax increases."
The Star's idiotic response was, "But supervisors in the past few years have moved to make sure growth pays for itself. The board has increased sewer user fees and has imposed fees for new sewer hookups as well as transportation impact fees. The result, according to county officials, is that growth fees are a healthy portion of the county budget. Growth is paying for itself."
Huh? Sewer fees go into an impound fund and cannot be used for anything else. The same with the paltry transportation impact fees, which were just half of what staff recommended. And most of those transportation impact fees, which would cover only a fraction of transportation needs caused by runaway growth, have yet to be imposed or collected.
And what about all the other costs more growth brings? Law enforcement and healthcare are both facing budget crises because we continue to grow. And what about school costs?
A few days earlier, the Star had hammered Carroll, saying his opposition "really does block reform of a mess largely created by his property-tax-cutting predecessors Ed Moore and Paul Marsh." Moore did not just pull the hapless Marsh along by the nose each August when his Republican majority adopted tax rates from 1993 through 1996. Mike Boyd, the only member of Moore's troika who is still on the Board of Supervisors, cheerfully went along in the tax cuts made available with part of the $20 million surplus left by the previous administration. Why is the Star protecting Boyd? We remember his first day in office, when he snottily taunted Democrats Dan Eckstrom and Raul Grijalva with the classic line: "Don't they get it? We have three votes."
It took three votes, including Boyd's, to cut the property tax rate from $5.64 per $100 in 1992 to $5.12 in 1996. Tax cuts are not necessarily bad. But those engineered by Moore, Marsh and Boyd gave the owner of a $100,000 home an extra $4.33 a month. Any savings was then wiped out by big increases in property values.
AMPHI, AGAIN: If the members of the Amphi School Board thought they might have a respite from their ongoing public drubbing after they finally--begrudgingly--agreed to allow a public call-to-the-audience segment at its meetings, they were sadly mistaken.
A new controversy exploded last week in the hunt for a new principal of Canyon Del Oro High School. Parents and teachers who sat on a committee to rank applicants for the job rebelled after they realized they were involved in a farce.
Leslie Crist, one of nine committee members to sign a letter to the Amphi Board, says she was outraged by the process. Each applicant appeared before the committee to answer 10 questions, which were prepared in advance by Amphi staff. Committee members--including teachers, parents, students and administrators--weren't allowed to ask follow-up questions or their own queries. Nor were they allowed to see résumés from the candidates.
"We were not given the opportunity to give a realistic picture of who we thought would be the best person for the job because we couldn't meet them," says Crist. "We didn't get a chance to know them."
Admittedly, Amphi is hamstrung by employment law. But the district's absurd process, designed primarily to give the appearance of allowing public input, is a titanic waste of time for everyone involved.
"It's not a legitimate process," Crist says. "It does not allow for input from people who really matter at the school--the students, the parents and the staff."
The resulting furor led Amphi Superintendent Robert "Bubba" Smith to pull the confirmation of his pick for the job, current Amphi High Assistant Principal Angie Julien, from the Board's agenda earlier this week.
Crist and other members of the committee are asking the administration to re-open the search. Crist has the support of Board members Nancy Young Wright and Ken Smith, who say they've been deluged with calls complaining about the whole sorry situation.
Ken Smith thinks the whole process is so tainted that the administration should start from scratch: "The only intelligent thing for them to do--and I'm not suggesting this is going to happen--is to withdraw that recommendation."
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