'Unifying' Districts Debated in Arizona
Education politics—and emotions—are heating up in Arizona in advance of a Nov. 4 vote on a plan that would unify 76 elementary and high school districts around the state into 27 K-12 districts.
“Arizona’s public school system is haphazard at best,” said Jay D. Kaprosy, a member of the state’s School District Redistricting Commission and the spokesman for Maricopa County United for Student Success, which supports it.
Currently, some of Arizona’s elementary districts are separate from high school districts. Under the plan, no schools would close, but some district lines would be redrawn to unify elementary and high school districts into combined districts.
The existing system was devised at a time when “students weren’t expected to go to high school,” Mr. Kaprosy said. “It’s about time to fix that system to benefit students and families and taxpayers.”
But several local groups hoping to preserve the state’s school districts as now configured have sprung up in opposition to the plan, which was outlined by the Arizona Department of Education’s 13-member redistricting commission.
They include Preserve Madison, an organization formed to defeat the unification plan in the Phoenix area.
Under the plan, Madison is one of 13 elementary school districts that would be combined with the Phoenix Union High School District to create the largest district in the state, with 120,000 students.
“There is no research that supports the argument that bigger is better,” said Sarah Speer, the chair and spokeswoman for Preserve Madison.
But advocates of the plan say that unifying districts will help cut costs and streamline curriculum.
“We have some districts that have a couple hundred kids or less,” said Art Harding, the deputy associate superintendent for state government affairs for the state education department and a member of the redistricting commission. “In unifying, the goal is to reduce that administrative overhead and get more money into the classroom.”
Vol. 28, Issue 08, Page 21
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