by David Safier
I'm confused. I've read Tim Steller's column, Deseg order is holding TUSD back, a few times this morning, trying to figure out how the deseg order is holding TUSD back. For the life of me, I can't find the proof, or even much in the way of persuasive arguments.
Let's see. TUSD gets an extra $60 million a year because it's under the deseg court order. That's bad because . . . Why, exactly?
TUSD has lost 16% of its enrollment over the past 10 years. It's more Hispanic now, and its students are poorer. Did the deseg order chase students away and bring down the size of TUSD's more affluent Anglo population, or is that a demographic trend that's happening in urban districts across the nation? If Steller showed something like causation, it might be an important point, but all he does is say the changes happened while the deseg order was in effect. I'm sure we have more Walmarts in the Tucson area than we did 10 years ago, but that doesn't mean Walmart has caused changes in the District's student population. Correlation and causation are two very different animals.
Hispanic groups (and others) are fighting school closures, which is exactly the kind of thing that happens whenever any district closes schools. And that relates to the deseg order . . . How, exactly? Philadelphia closed 30 schools recently creating a similar hue and cry, and a court-mandated deseg order wasn't in the mix.
The deseg plan adds more administration? OK, point taken, but TUSD already has a reputation for being admin-heavy. A few more may add to the problem, but that's not much of an argument against the deseg plan.
Steller refers to a sales pitch by Basis charters to prospective parents that sounds more like dog-whistle racism than an argument against deseg ("We don't focus on 'ethnic and sociological reporting'" [because . . . wink, wink . . . don't have to worry about all those "ethnics"]). It's worth keeping in mind that the founders of Basis are staunch conservatives when you note that they use TUSD's deseg plan as a reason for parents to abandon the District.
Steller's column has plenty of facts and plenty of attitude. Unfortunately, persuasive arguments are in short supply.