Redrawn boundary plans could affect 100-plus school districts statewide
Arizona Republic
March 29, 2007

 Laura Houston

State commissioners are proposing boundary changes for more than 100 school districts in Arizona - changes that could affect as many as half of the state's students.

Affected school boards must respond to the Arizona School District Redistricting Commission's recommendations by July 30, unless a legislative bill is successful in pushing the deadline back to September.

Voters ultimately will determine which districts merge, split or stay the same when the issue goes to the November 2008 ballot. Proponents of unifying elementary and high school districts say it pools resources and puts more money into classrooms.

But officials in some rapidly growing districts prefer to wait until their populations stabilize before making such decisions.

Superintendent Beverly Hurley said she already knows that board members are going to vote down the commission's two recommendations for Buckeye Union High School District, along with four school districts in the region.

"Our boards have already rejected Plans One and Two. We already had a combined governing board meeting (in February)," Hurley said after leaving Tuesday's commission meeting at the state Capitol.

Buckeye Union is a southwest Valley district that is small in numbers but sprawling in square miles. It is expected to grow from its current 2,900 to as many as 9,400 students by 2015. It's also a member of the Buckeye Valley Education Alliance, which includes Liberty Elementary, Arlington Elementary, Buckeye Elementary and Palo Verde Elementary - all of which are expected to swell as the housing market saturates in a few decades.

The region was one of the last places to chime in to the commission before members approved plans to redraw district boundary lines.

In several cases, the commission opted to send multiple plans to voters in affected school districts.

For example, school boards for Tempe Elementary, Tempe Union and Kyrene Elementary school districts get to sift through two plans.

One plan puts all three districts together; the other places Marcos de Niza, McClintock and Tempe high schools with Tempe Elementary, while Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe and Corona del Sol high schools blend with Kyrene Elementary.

The latter, however, prompted concerns of dividing students along racial and socioeconomic lines among some commissioners, including Art Harding and Chairman Marty Shultz.

One commissioner, Jay Kaprosy, explained during the meeting that his vote to present both plans allowed school districts to decide what's best for themselves, despite his concerns about the potential for racial and economic segregation.

Shultz said that at the end of the process, he wants to see more dollars go to classrooms and teachers.

Out of Arizona's 227 school districts, 95 are unified, serving K-12.

"What unification will do for these school district that are not now unified is it will allow them to improve," he said.

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