Parents outraged about schools potentially losing 'magnet' status

Parents outraged about schools potentially losing 'magnet' status

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The call to audience went much longer than the 20 minutes allotted by Tucson Unified School District board members on Tuesday night, after dozens of parents, teachers, and students signed up to express their feelings about their schools possibly losing the coveted "magnet" designation.

Five schools in the district are in jeopardy of losing the "magnet school" title. These are: Ochoa, Bonillas, Cholla, Utterback and Safford. The schools would continue to operate, but the specialized programming they now offer would suffer without the extra money to fund them.

Magnet schools are designed to offer specialized programs that attract students from all over the district, with the goal of creating a more diverse student body. No single ethnic group can make up more than 70 percent of the student body. Schools also have to meet a high academic criteria.

All of the discussion stems from a desegregation lawsuit filed against the district about 40 years ago. As part of the lawsuit the federal court judge appointed a special master to check out the district and make sure efforts were being made to create racial diversity within schools.

After reviewing the schools' plans, the special master felt some of the schools were unsuccessful in their effort, and recommended pulling the plug on several magnet schools.

Some parents were outraged that a man who does not live in Tucson or even Arizona was making decisions that affected local communities. One parent spoke up saying they wanted the special master to attend their community meetings and give them an opportunity to ask him questions.

A student from Safford K-8 Magnet school spoke out and said attending Safford had helped him become a better problem solver and taught him critical thinking skills. He felt prepared for college, and was confident he would succeed.

The schools receive about $3.5 million a year in desegregation funding to support the programs which included the International Baccalaureate program, dual languages, JROTC, fine and performing arts, family engagement, and alternative approaches to learning.

School officials said they planned to appeal the special master's recommendation with the federal court judge.

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