Friday, March 11, 2016

I Hope Judge Bury Made a Good Deseg Decision, But I Have My Doubts

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 3:00 PM

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The latest turn in the dance and duel between TUSD and the decades-old desegregation case is, U.S. District Judge David Bury ruled against three out of four of the district's proposed changes. The background on the changes is so complicated and convoluted, I'm not going to go through the details. Alexis Huicochea describes the decisions in her article in the Star. The short story is, Judge Bury permitted the suggested changes at Drachman Montessori K-6 Magnet School and rejected changes at Borman Elementary, Collier and Fruchthendler Elementary Schools and Sabino High. All the changes involved adding grades to the schools.

Bury's decisions are based on his assessment of whether the changes would help or harm desegregation at TUSD. I hope they lead to more integrated (or desegregated) schools in the district over the long term. If that's what happens, Bury did good. But my concern is that district schools which currently have a more than 70 percent Hispanic population—that's the line at which they're considered segregated—won't end up with more heterogeneous population, and schools with large Anglo populations will lose Anglo students to charter schools and neighboring districts like Vail and Catalina Foothills. If the long term result is fewer Anglo students in TUSD, shrinking both the size and heterogeneity of the district, without a significant increase in desegregation, then the decision is harmful. I fear that's what will happen.

Anyone who presents the TUSD desegregation problem as a simple issue—either that all the district has to do is A, B and C to desegregate the district and everything will get better, or that TUSD should throw up its hands and forget about the whole desegregation thing—is wrong. I've looked at districts across the country to find clear answers for ways to successfully integrate urban districts with a majority of minority students—in other words, districts similar to TUSD—and I haven't found any magic bullets or magic ponies. No one seems to have discovered the formula for doing it well. But TUSD is bound by law and by its educational mission to keep looking for ways to create more heterogeneous schools.

To show how complicated these decisions are, it looks like none of the players in the deseg dance and duel agree completely about what to do with the latest TUSD proposals. Judge Bury said no to every proposal but the one at Drachman, and he's the judge, so what he says, goes. Willis Hawley, the Special Master appointed by the court, a man with extensive knowledge of and experience in desegregation matters, accepted the plans for Collier and Fruchthendler and Borman but wasn't sure about the Drachman plan, the one Judge Bury accepted. Of the two sets of plaintiffs in the ongoing deseg case, the African-American plaintiffs didn't support any of the proposals while the Latino plaintiffs agreed to the Borman and Drachman plans. Everyone but TUSD rejected the Sabino plan.

If I missed or misrepresented an acceptance or rejection by one of the parties, it wasn't for lack of trying (and I'm sure someone will correct any errors in the comments). The point is, with five parties weighing in on the possible changes—Judge, Special Master, two sets of plaintiffs and TUSD—every party has a different idea of what should be accepted and rejected. All of them are making their best guess, and I believe all of them have the best interests of the district at heart, but no one knows for certain what are the best ways to improve the district for current and future students.

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