CFSD vs the Rabble Rousers: Cue the Torches and Pitchforks

An inexplicable digital oddity hit my doom-scrolling radar this week: With the subtlety of a sledgehammer to a watermelon, this site is supposedly the brainchild of a mysterious cabal of educational illusionists dubbed The Center for Excellence in Public Schools. Sounds less like a bona fide academic think tank than a Klandestine Koffee Klatch for delusional political cosplayers. 

Do you like scary movies? Check this out.

The Center for Excellence in Public Schools (aka SaveCFSD) is high on misinformation and low on facts. The digital dream weavers behind this site want you to believe that families from Catalina Foothills School District #16 are fleeing the district en masse. (mock gasp) Ooh, noooo!

It’s quite the spectacle, this website; you can see part of an image below. It’s a stock illustration with children’s silhouettes bolting from homes ablaze, evoking memories of early 20th-century propaganda pamphlets. A tad kitschy. Look, if you’re going to toy with the truth, at least offer less eye-rolling visuals to accompany your nonsense.

At first, it seems like The Center for Excellence in Legendary Lying (aka SaveCFSD) did its research, that is, until you fact check. Instead of buying into the malarkey, I connected with a few pivotal folks in the know. A contact shared with me sets of data rebutting the kooky claims, which I’ve incorporated into this post. But, I also viewed publicly-available data sets and dashboards by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).

Center for Excellence in Public Schools demographic information

Voilà, my distilled perspective with a generous dose of commentary.

Truthiness Claim #1: 

So, why are 4 of every 10 district families opting out of CFSD?, asks SaveCFSD.

(sharp buzzer sound) Oh, my. That’s not correct. That’s a classic example of the fallacy of presupposition. I reject the premise of the loaded question. 

During the roller coaster 2021-2022 school year, when students and parents alike scrambled for the mute button on their Chromebooks, an interesting stat emerged. ADE’s Open Enrollment Dashboard revealed that 21.5% of CFSD families decided to transfer to other charter schools or districts.

What does this mean, you ask? Well, in the grand panorama of Arizona school districts, 21.5% is on the low end of the spectrum. Remember, folks: this was the academic year when online school became as popular as—dare I say it?—face masks. So, in the face of pandemic uncertainty, CFSD families stood relatively firm.

Truthiness Claim #2: 

While every family has unique circumstances, their complaints can be largely categorized into three main concerns: Truth, Trust, and Transparency, says SaveCFSD.

Heeey, I see the folks at SaveCFSD are big fans of wordplay. Yeah, me, too. I enjoy tongue twisters, like “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck…?” Try saying ‘Truth, Trust, and Transparency’ ten times real fast. Go ahead. You know you want to.

Anyway, past district families were polled about their reasons for bidding the district adieu. That was in 2022. The leading culprit, claiming 42% of the vote, was the classic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ scenario. In other words, it was relocation or job change. That’s significantly different from the rabble-rousing war cry claimed by the Baffling Bullsh!t Brigade.

When it came to grading CFSD on its scholastic prowess, roughly 50% of those surveyed showered CFSD with a glowing five-star rating, while another 27% were generous enough to bestow four stars. Not too shabby, eh?

So, I’m guessing TT&T will work as a snappy slogan on the MAGA campaign trail, if nothing else. But it sure is fascinating how manufactured crises with stale taglines can create an electrifying buzz in some people’s amygdala, making even the most ridiculous drivel sound credible.

Truthiness Claim #3: 

A comparison to other area districts shows CFSD has the 3rd highest exit rate in Pima county, says SaveCFSD.

Not quite, Fibber McFibberface. CFSD has the third lowest transfer rate in Pima County.

Wait, wait! Don’t tell me. This is what happens when you try to do some serious data bending while binge-watching episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, amirite?

Now how about we all take a moment, give the true rankings the attention they deserve, and then honestly consider whether our friends at The Center for Excellence in Marvelous Make-Believe (aka SaveCFSD) might’ve confused the real data with a can of Bud Light.

Truthiness Claim #4: 

Out of the seven area schools listed on the report, TV residents are choosing CFSD least of all ranking it dead last in 7th place out of 7 other public school choices in Pima County, says SaveCFSD.

“Sign me up for the marathon trek between home and school every single week day!,” said no rational parent, ever. Golly, let’s throw in a pit-stop at the Grand Canyon while we’re at it! 

Look, it’s all about location, location, location. CFSD and Tanque Verde aren’t exactly next-door neighbors. To get from one to the other, Tanque Verde residents would need to zip through TUSD territory. Given Tanque Verde’s cozy borders with TUSD and Vail, it’s a no-brainer why a bunch of Tanque Verde families would choose to open enroll in these districts. 

And the other choices? They’re practically in Tanque Verde’s backyard! Hermosa Montessori proudly calls Tanque Verde home, while Basis and Leman are just chillin’ on the east side of TUSD. 

Hmm. Could it be that our pals at The Center for Excellence in Unhinged Map Navigation (aka SaveCFSD) believe families might be overlooking the silver lining here? Daily epic car rides mean you get to spend more quality time with your children. Your little scholars will be able to tackle all their homework while also mastering the art of car-sick resilience! You even get to fill up your tank constantly while you contribute more to global greenhouse gases. Oh, wait. Forget that last part. I’m sure SaveCFSD did.

It’s almost as if no one at SaveCFSD could find their own backside using Google Maps, even if their pants were on fire. And their pants are definitely on fire.

"Pants on Fire." AI-generated image by Kim M. Bayne, created with a text-to-image prompt in Midjourney AI plus minor edits in a graphic design tool.

Truthiness Claim #5: 

CFSD has also lost appeal to its other two neighboring districts. TUSD students choose Sunnyside over CFSD and Amphi residents choose Flowing Wells before sending their kids to CFSD. This report shows that not a single district chooses CFSD first among competing public school alternatives., says SaveCFSD.

No, that’s not it. The thing is: size matters, but more appropriately, capacity. SaveCFSD seems to have overlooked the conventional rules of space and volume, unless, of course, someone stumbled across The Doctor’s TARDIS hidden away in the high school theater department.

Picture this: CFSD, while charming, is smaller than Sunnyside. CFSD? It has 7 schools for 5,000 students. Sunnyside? It has 22 schools for 14,500 students. So, Sunnyside can accommodate more due to its larger capacity. Basically, Catalina Foothills School District warmly embraces a generous number of open enrollment students within the limits of its available resources.

But here’s the kicker: despite the size difference, both districts are attracting almost the same number of students from TUSD, with Sunnyside (1,626 students) only just edging out CFSD (1,590 students).

Now let’s talk about Amphi. More of them are heading over to Flowing Wells, but that’s largely because Flowing Wells has more schools (11 in total for 5,400 students) and it’s simply closer to Amphi. Even so, the numbers aren’t dramatically different, with Flowing Wells getting 604 students from Amphi and CFSD attracting 500. 

By the way, I’m challenging that “lost appeal” assertion. Let’s explore how long Open Enrollment (OE) students stay in CFSD. We’ll narrow it down to the senior class. Out of the 217 seniors living outside the district, an interesting pattern emerged. More than half of them (117 out of 217) have been with CFSD for five years or more. Additionally, a significant quarter (55 out of 217) of the seniors have been part of the CFSD community for a decade or longer. These numbers highlight CFSD‘s enduring appeal.

Truthiness Claim #6: 

While some Foothills families opt for private or home-school options, they also choose other non-select public school districts. CFSD is losing students to TUSD, Flowing Wells, Amphi, and Marana in addition to about a dozen other public charter schools, says SaveCFSD.

No, but thank you for trying. Again, when you actually look at the latest numbers (those 2021-2022 ones), you discover that CFSD is successfully attracting kiddos from all these districts. We’re not just talking a trickle, either. No contest, folks.

Now here’s a bit of fanfare. Take a look at this summary of students who have open enrolled into CFSD over the last 10 years. I’m seeing steady growth overall, with just a minor anomaly in 2016-2017. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.

Fractured Fairy Tales

SaveCFSD’s webisode sure has an intriguing vibe. Almost like a political party derailed by fear and hate, wouldn’t you say? But why would The Center for Excellence in Embellishments and Spin (aka SaveCFSD) put so much effort into misrepresenting easily-obtainable public data? My first impression is often the right one: money and power.

  1. How can a small percentage of families continue bleeding Arizona’s coffers dry through the ESA voucher scheme when there are indeed school districts—like Catalina Foothills School District—that are hitting home runs left and right?
  2. Why bother presenting voters with the truth when converting folks to a warped ideology can land GOP-anointed candidates in office? Nice work, if you can get it.

You got to admire The Center for Excellence in Unicorn Studies (aka SaveCFSD) for its tenacity, if not its lack of integrity. It’s all kind of sadly ironic, given their TT&T mantra.

Whether SaveCFSD’s school board tactics are calculated chaos or accidental absurdity, who the heck knows? Keep questioning the sketchy claims, folks. It’s just a test bed for the upcoming election cycle lunacy.

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1 thought on “CFSD vs the Rabble Rousers: Cue the Torches and Pitchforks”

  1. What’s funny is that school district boundaries in Pima County are a product of the early of Arizona, some even back to pre-Statehood. They make little sense nowadays. Ranchers carved their own little school district fiefdoms, and despite urbanization the boundaries remain.

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