State legislators speak to education issues at Governing Board meeting

Posted on: February 25, 2015

Watch the video of the meeting >>
(The legislators appear beginning at the 51:33 time stamp.)

State legislators from both parties drove down from the Capitol--or called in from their offices in Phoenix--for a special board meeting at Tucson Unified School District Tuesday night to inform the members and community about current education bills working their way through the legislature.

The main focus was Senate Bill 1371, an effort to phase out desegregation funding to Arizona school districts. TUSD is the only school district in Arizona under an active desegregation court order with specific goals and services it is court-ordered to achieve.

State Sen. Steve Farley has a child who attends TUSD, and his legislative district includes Tucson Unified. He emphasized the seriousness of SB 1371 and other proposed legislation.

"You must understand that this Legislature is capable of anything. That's why 1371 is such a risk." He went on to say that the people who support SB 1371 are not friends of public education.

If the bill were to pass and cut funding to Tucson Unified, "TUSD would then be the lowest amount of spending per pupil spending almost in the state, but certainly in Southern Arizona," Sen. Farley said. "That gives you the understanding of how important it is to be all hands on deck."

Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales also took to the podium during the board meeting. Rep. Gonzales said more than 30 TUSD schools are in her district, and eight of her 22 grandchildren go to TUSD schools. Rep. Gonzales says desegregation funds are vital to the district and equitable education for all.

"It shouldn't matter where our children go to school, and they should all receive a quality education so they can compete in our global economy."

Rep. Victoria Steele said she found it hard to believe when she was first elected that there were people who were out to destroy public education. "But it's true," she said. "We spend the majority of our time every day on the House floor trying to kill bills that would destroy public education."

"Public school is important because it provides equal opportunity for all of our children."

Representatives Sally Ann Gonzales, Stefanie Mach, Randall Friese, John Christopher Ackerley, Rosanna Gabaldon, Lisa A. Otondo, Bruce Wheeler and Charlene Fernandez along with Sen. Andrea Dalessandro joined the conversation via phone. Many of them urged Southern Arizonans to get involved in the process by contacting the governor's office or joining the nonpartisan website www.azvoices.gov.

Board members and Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sánchez expressed their appreciation to the legislators for taking the time out of their busy days to keep the voters up to date and informed.