TUSD candidate forum: What about teachers’ unions? (video)


by Pamela Powers Hannley

Besides their views on Mexican American Studies, one of the most telling questions at Wednesday's Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) candidate forum was about labor unions. There were definitely differences of opinion about the role of teachers' unions and how the union issue relates to the shift toward charter schools (which are not unionized).

Seven of 12 candidates for TUSD governing board candidates participated in a candidate forum sponsored by Dinking Liberally Tucson.

After the jump, listen to the candidates' thoughts on working with labor unions. This is the third in a series of videos from the forum. Here is a link to my You Tube channel where this and other video clips reside.




  1. Man in hat: I do not speak negatively of other board members, or candidates. Not all board members and candidates can say the same. So where is the divisiveness coming from?

  2. Brainstorm is a great process– if people leave their sacred cows at the door and really open themselves up to new and creative ideas. I attended one brainstorming session where everyone was given a tiny loaded squirt gun. If anyone poo-poo’d a new idea without giving a real reason why it wouldn’t work, others were allowed to squirt them. It was a very effective and fun way to stop the naysayers from derailing the creative process.

    I initially thought your solar panels on schools was pie in the sky, but our church and the Jewish temple on Tucson Blvd. both have impressive parking structures made from solar panels. If churches can scrape together financing (probably including grants/subsidies), why not schools? I also like the potential tech education angle of it.

    You and the other MAS stalwarts talked about bringing the former MAS program but didn’t address or even mention the new program being built by Ms. Figueroa or the new curriculum being written by Auggie Romero. Couldn’t a new and improved program be developed– with careful oversight by the board (something that has been lacking in the past)?

  3. Putnam-HIDALGO (please, its my name, mr. man in the hat!) believes that without idealism and a commitment to it we are lost. I would like to reinstate the MAS program and I assume that being on the Board would offer me a set of different possibilities to do that than I currently have. So when I say that I would like to reinstate the program, I am expressing a commitment to do something that currently seems impossible. Believing as I do in creative and critical thinking, I don’t let reality stop me from working on change. In fact, given the political machinations around any electoral office, I never would have even run for the Board, right?!

    I think the supposed conflict of interest of a Sunnyside teacher is a smokescreen. What is the real concern here? Is there a problem with having a teachers’ voice on the Board? I am much more concerned about other conflicts of interest than I am about this one. Does the Board have a process of recusal over conflicts of interest? If it doesn’t, it should. Certainly there are times when staff, too, has a conflict of interest and should be able to do the same.

    At the first Drinking Liberally I was taken to task publicly on my “crazy” idea of brainstorming over what the District should do about the budget shortfall. I will say here what I said then–I take democracy seriously. Some great ideas came out the Districts’ focus groups and follow up meetings to the Town Halls. Its not brainstorming thats the problem, its ignoring it–in the name of reality. (Stated by a person whose idea of upgrading the energy efficiency of our school buildings was one of the few that was approved unanimously by the focus group)

  4. I agree on the SUSD issue and Cam.

    The line that MAS is part of the deseg order has been repeated several times, and I thought it was not true, since deseg goes back to the 1960s or 1970s, right? MAS at TUSD was created in ~1998 by a Blue Ribbon panel that was supposed to come up with plans to improve minority graduation rates.(I have the original story from the old Tucson Citizen somewhere.) Now, one can say that improving minority graduation rates is in line with deseg goals, but it was not officially mandated, as implied by many these days. The special master is looking at it now, though.

  5. Betts, I will be uploading more video clips today. My you tube channel is dancepartner30, but everything will be on Blog for AZ also.

    On the issues , I started with the unions and MAS because I think those issues show a sharp contrast between the candidates.

  6. Putnam’s stance that the district could and should fully reinstate MAS shows she doesn’t get the legal reality of the situation. A judge upheld Huppenthal’s ruling and violating that ruling would immediately cost TUSD 10% of its budget. The argument that it is part of the Deseg plan is laughable. MAS was never mandated as part of the plan, (in fact, it was added long after the original plans were written).
    The judge overseeing the Deseg plan doesn’t have the authority to force the district to violate state law.

    Foster’s current job in the Sunnyside distict office raises some possible conflict of interest issues. Yes, others have served on one district’s board while employed by another, but the current superintendent of SUSD is not to be trusted. I trust that Foster wouldn’t kowtow to undue pressures from him if it came down to a TUSD vs SUSD issue, but TUSD doesn’t need to be in a situation where some could claim that administrators outside the district may be influencing/controling the district.

    Cotton, way out of touch with what works and doesn’t in education. Same with Ellingwood. Hunnicutt, bigoted.
    Stegeman has been wrong on the MAS issue, but has been fighting to solve the district’s financial issues. But his presence has been dvisive, so it may be time for him to go.

    Juarez seems like he genuinely cares about the district and the kids and doesn’t seem to come in with an ax to grind.

    Cuevas is the worst of the three incumbents up for re-election.

  7. Terry, I agree with most of what you say. Definitely, the speakers who were the most pro-union were also the most pro-MAS. Where we differ is on the issue of MAS. The former program didn’t have the reach it needed to obtain the original goal of increasing graduation rates among underserved minority children. It is statistically impossible to improve the lot of ~32,000 Latino kids by serving 800 (which I believe what they served last). There is also the issue of serving the other minority children (ie, refugees and non-Mexican Latinos) who don’t fit into the 4 current categories under Ethnic Studies. What about them? Do we cast them aside because they don’t fit neatly into the current structure? When I asked Kristel Foster the question about other underserved minority populations, she naively said they could take MAS. That is like me– a person of European descent– saying Mexicans can just take European-American history, isn’t it?

    I also believe that things could have been added/changed to increase the reach and effectiveness of MAS, but the MAS leaders were/are not interested change. They continue to fight for the status quo. The status quo is not good enough, in my opinion.

    One board member told me that the “deseg funds are a cesspool of pet projects.” I asked Dave to ask the candidates how they would address that, but he didn’t. I think the board needs to take a cold hard look at how the deseg funds are being spent *and* a cold hard look at how administrative funds are being spent. It’s an abomination that TUSD spends more on administration than it does on students and that it spends more on administration than any other school district its size in Arizona.

    How can we raise up the most students with the money we have? The first thing is for the ADULTS in the room to sit down and honestly start talking and negotiating– leaving the pet projects, the name calling, and the anger at the door. Also, the board needs to take leadership and start paying attention to curricula, achievement, and finances. I was truly disgusted when I read in the paper that the board was not reviewing curricula; I place that issue at the feet of the board members who have served the longest. In the recent New York Times article that talked about the evolution of MAS, it alluded to programs/services like one-on-one tutoring that were mysteriously eliminated from MAS along the way and that Ms. Figuera wants to bring back. Why was an important service like that eliminated? The board wasn’t paying attention.

    As long as the bullhorns are out, nothing of substance will be accomplished because everyone will dig in their heels. Turf wars don’t serve the students or the community at large. I think the MAS Advisory Board and the Latino elected officials should help build consensus and help the community move forward, but I don’t see that happening and that is highly disappointing.

    So, our goals are the same. Now what?

  8. The only opinions that count from these candidates is their passion to work for students, teachers, parents, and MAS and sucessfully reducing the drop out rates of the underrepresented majority population in TUSD and further increase the percentage of college bound students. The key to this success was the MAS program. What I heard at this debate was those who defend MAS believe in teacher’s and union rights, anti-school closures, and developing an environment of learning that is diverse and inclusive. Several candidates appear to stand on these values with the community’s benefit to heart. This excludes, Cuevas, Cotton, and Stegeman. The only viable democratic candidates in a progressive forum include, Betts Putnam Hidalgo, Ralph Ellingwood, Camy Juarez, and possibly Kristel Foster.

Comments are closed.