Published: Monday, November 2, 2009
With a slew of propositions on the ballot in tomorrow’s city elections, it can be difficult to keep all the details straight. To help students sort out a some of the most important issues, the Daily Wildcat’s Brian Mori put together this guide on Propositions 401 and 402, which deal with funding for the Tucson Unified School District.
The Tucson Unified School District, an independently elected government body not under control of the City Council, has asked for more money from taxpayers over the next seven years to replace funding for services cut by the legislature and a drop in enrollment.
Together, Propositions 401 and 402 will add approximately $27.5 million to TUSD’s 2010-2011 budget; however, the district will not have to ask permission from voters again until 2017.
According to TUSD proposals, Tucson homeowners whose houses are assessed at $100,000 or more will pay approximately $5 extra per month in taxes if both propositions pass.
Good to know: Tucson’s Proposition 401 should not be confused with the City of South Tucson’s Proposition 401, which strives for more protection for animals at Tucson Greyhound Park.
Proposition 401 — TUSD Maintenance and Budget Override — Approximately $18.4 million for 2010.
Fund all-day kindergarten at all TUSD elementary schools
Increase student funding ratio from approximately $150 per student to $187 per student.
Bring in-classroom Internet speeds to industry standard.
Proposition 402 — Technology Capital Campaign — $9 million override (recurring)
Lease 10,000 industry-standard computers for in-classroom use
Install new Internet network systems at schools
Replace administration networks
TUSD provides free public education to over 55,000 students.
The district calculates $45 million in losses due to enrollment drops and cuts from the state.
It has claimed to be the only school district in the metro area that does not operate routinely with an override.
The state legislature cuts have forced the elimination of counselors, librarians and kindergarten at several schools. Classroom computers and networks are obsolete and slower than what half of Tucsonans use in their homes, according to TUSD audits.
TUSD is now under the leadership of a new superintendant and more spending control has been given to parents and administrations through individual school site-councils.
“In addition to investing in public safety, transportation and parks, our city’s economy requires an appropriately funded school system to ensure strong neighborhoods,” Ward 2 City Councilman Rodney Glassman wrote in an endorsement on the campaign’s Web page. “When companies look at Tucson as a place to relocate or expand, education is one of the first factors they ask about.”
Opponents point to what they say is TUSD’s history of poor financial transparency. A civil investigation by the Arizona attorney general in 2009 resulted in the firing and resignation of TUSD financial administrators for school property use violations. No charges were filed but the scandal has slowed Tucson’s ability to receive federal classroom technology subsidies known as E-rate funds.
TUSD has also been accused of misusing earmarked funds from previous bond elections.
At an early October debate, The Pima Association of Taxpayers suggested that TUSD focus on traditional teaching methods until the economy provides the means to increase technology. They say it’s time for TUSD to get creative and fully utilize the money it has already been given. A recession is not the time to raise taxes, according to detractors.
Who supports the propositions? (According to campaign Web sites)
Invest in Our Kids Campaign
TUSD Governing Board
Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Tucson Association of Realtors
Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc. (Tucson’s regional govt. economics agency)
City Council members Karin Uhlich (D), Rodney Glassman (D), Regina Romero (D) and Nina Trasoff (D)
City Council candidate Richard Fimbres (D)
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D) and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D)
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik
“Tucson is dead last in dollars to classroom spending.” — Ann-Eve Pederson, spokesperson for Invest in Our Kids Campaign
Who’s against them? (According to campaign Web sites)
Pima Association of Taxpayers
“Transparency is the worst I’ve seen it in 20 years.” — Mary Terry-Schultz, Pima Association of Taxpayers representative