TUCSON, Arizona – The Tucson Unified School District, the largest in southern Arizona, is thinking about closing 14 schools because of budget cuts.
The TUSD faces a deficit of $17 million, largely due to cuts approved by the state legislature and a considerable drop in the number of students.
“This is a very tough decision we have to take, but unfortunately we have no choice,” school board member Adelita Grijalva told Efe.
She acknowledged that one factor in the decline in the number of students has been the passing of state laws against illegal immigration like SB 1070, which spurred many immigrant families to leave the state.
“Since Law SB 1071 was passed, we lost approximately 4,000 students,” Grijalva said.
Fewer students mean a smaller budget for schools.
During the 2012 school year, the TUSD had slightly more than 51,000 students, of whom 62 percent were Hispanics.
Schools being considered for closure include Menlo Park Elementary, where 92 percent of the students are of Hispanic origin, as are 85 percent of the kids at Manzo Elementary.
Grijalva said the district is considering certain aspects of the schools to be shuttered, such as making use of their academic resources, the available vacancies and the possibility of consolidation.
But for people like Ann-Eve Pedersen, president of the Arizona Education Parent Network, the main problem is the downsized budget affecting all of Arizona’s school districts.
“During the 2008-2013 period, the state of Arizona slashed the education budget by 21 percent, the highest percentage in the country,” Pedersen said at a school board meeting in Tucson.
At the meeting attended by more than 800 parents, students, teachers and members of the community, representatives of all the threatened schools had the chance to express their opinions. EFE