Ariz districts study whether integration ruling will affect them
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 28, 2007

Pat Kossan

Arizona educators are unsure how Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court decision would affect the state's schools.

The complex and split decision shuts down efforts to keep school populations racially mixed in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. It doesn't, however, completely restrict school districts from using race in their plans to keep classrooms diverse.

Tempe Elementary District Superintendent Arthur Tate is studying how this decision would affect 620 students who are bused to different schools as part of a settlement to end a federal civil rights complaint.

"This is a major ruling involving a complex issue," Tate said. "We are studying the ruling and what it will mean for our students, district and community."

Casa Grande Elementary remains one of the few state districts that deliberately draw school boundaries to make sure classrooms are racially balanced and reflect the district's population. The district is 52 percent Latino, 35 percent White and 13 percent Native American and African American.

"I don't anticipate it's going to have an effect on decisions we make on school site selection," Superintendent Frank Davidson said. "As we select sites for future schools, we'll use the same kind of approaches.

In Arizona, 19 school districts collect extra property taxes to remedy federal civil right complaints, some of which are 20 years old. The taxes are routinely called "desegregation funds," but most of the complaints were not about integrating schools, but rather about a lack of programs to help students still learning English.

The Supreme Court ruling will not stop the collection of these taxes to settle federal complaints, said Kevin McCarthy of the Arizona Tax Research Association. That's because state law, not federal, gives districts permission to collect these taxes.

Phoenix Union High School District is the only Valley district under court order to integrate its schools. Like others, it did so by creating "magnet programs," such as arts, to attract White students to heavily minority schools. Today, more than 90 percent of Phoenix Union's students are from ethnic or racial minority families. By Aug. 6, when the district opens its 11th comprehensive high school opens, that court order will end.