MALDEF AND TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT AGREE ON PROPOSAL TO GIVE MAGNET SCHOOLS NEEDED SUPPORT AND TO DEFER ANY WITHDRAWAL OF MAGNET STATUS
Stipulation would provide additional financial support to magnet schools to work to close achievement gaps and to pursue initiatives to improve recruitment of students
October 27, 2015
TUCSON, AZ - On Friday of last week, a stipulation to provide Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) magnet schools needed support was filed in the historic desegregation case, Mendoza v. Tucson Unified School District. Under the court-adopted Unitary Status Plan (USP) developed by the parties and Special Master to resolve the 40-year old case, magnet schools are to strengthen their students' academic achievement and increase integration. Following several magnet schools' failure to meet integration benchmarks, MALDEF, together with co-counsel Lois D. Thompson, Partner at Proskauer Rose LLP, advanced a proposal to delay any recommendations of magnet status withdrawal and to have TUSD provide magnet schools with additional needed support, including financial support and the filling of teacher vacancies, to close the achievement gap between magnet schools' white students and their Latino and African American students, and to improve recruitment of students.
Following TUSD's adoption of its July 15, 2014 Comprehensive Magnet Plan (CMP) under the USP last year, MALDEF objected to shortening the process to remove schools' magnet status because magnet schools have for many years been starved of needed District resources, support, and direction. In his January 16, 2015 Order, District Court Judge David C. Bury found that the District's CMP was "not a comprehensive magnet plan" and ordered that TUSD develop plans for each magnet school to set and achieve academic achievement and integration goals and benchmarks, and authorized the Special Master to recommend that magnet schools failing to reach benchmarks have their magnet status withdrawn. With input from the Plaintiffs and Special Master, TUSD developed those magnet school improvement plans, including several to which MALDEF objected based on TUSD's failure to provide the funds necessary for them to reach their benchmarks.
In September 2015, after TUSD's enrollment data for the 2015-16 school year revealed that a number of magnet schools were unlikely to meet integration benchmarks, the Special Master indicated that he may recommend the removal of five schools' magnet status. In response, MALDEF proposed to delay any magnet status removal based on TUSD's failure to adequately support its magnet schools.
Under that proposal, the District is to support all magnet schools subject to a potential recommendation for magnet status withdrawal by filling all vacancies by November 1, 2015, and ensuring that there exist no vacancies at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. More broadly, TUSD must also restore all funds that it cut from magnet schools' improvement plans, aid schools to close achievement gaps, and advance strategies to increase the integration of entering classes and the District as a whole. Amenable to the proposal, TUSD negotiated the details and subsequently added a provision for additional support to magnet schools to raise their students' academic achievement.
MALDEF's and TUSD's magnet school stipulation, if approved by the Court, will ensure that schools with large concentrations of Latino students receive the support they require to increase their students' academic achievement and increase their integration, and provide TUSD's many thousands of Latino students, including Latino Plaintiff Edward A. Contreras's dozens of family members now attending TUSD schools, equal educational opportunities to further eliminate vestiges of past racial discrimination.
"The Latino plaintiffs are pleased that the district has agreed to support the proposal to provide its magnet schools and programs some of the support they have long required," stated Juan Rodriguez, MALDEF staff attorney. "If the Court approves the stipulation, these important schools will have additional support to increase their contributions to improving equal educational opportunity in the District."
The Latino plaintiffs, represented by MALDEF and Ms. Thompson, won a variety of important outcomes for TUSD's Latino students this year, including a ruling that the District must develop teacher and principal evaluation plans that give weight to teachers' efforts to engage students of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds; and the development of a stipulation directed at expanding Culturally Relevant Course (ethnic studies) offerings at TUSD schools.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.