On Saturday Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez lashed out at Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and attacked his claims about school spending.
Sanchez, not known for his candor, said that Ducey’s claim about “giving more money to K through 12 education,” is “It’s a half truth if even that.”
Sanchez claims that the Governor’s budget is hurting school districts in response to comments made by Ducey at a Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce event of Friday.
According to 13 News reporter Cynthia Washington, Sanchez said “his district planned early so they wouldn’t have to make any cuts.” Sanchez told Washington, So we began running different scenarios, and in that, we determined that we need to cut about 8 percent of our central office budgets – and if we did that – we would come out alright. So, we began making strategic moves as early as October or November of last year; we froze positions, we consolidated positions, people retired we didn’t refill them, and that allowed us to be able to carry a certain amount of funds forward from last year so that we will be able to balance out what the Governor is going to cut.”
Later, in an email to Board members and staff, Sanchez reiterated his complaints against Ducey:
“Mid-day, I attended the Tucson Hispanic Chamber’s Governor’s Luncheon as they hosted Governor Ducey. He continues to state he has put more money into public education this year than last. This is just not true. Although there was an adjustment for inflation, there was quite a decrease in capital funding. Ms. Soto will be gathering all the information about those figures to present. The Governor used BASIS Charter as the model for transforming education. As of the most recent graduation data available, from 2013, all of the BASIS charters combined graduated only 100 students. I don’t view this as successful.”
Washington reported “that the TUSD governing board will discuss budget cuts in more detail at its next meeting May 19.”
Sanchez comments surprised TUSD officials. Board member Michael Hicks said he will not approve any budgets put forth by Sanchez until board members are provided copies of a line item budget. Hicks said, “Given the recent numbers put out by the Auditor General, the fact that our Audit Committee is no longer independent, and we have zero access to real numbers, I will not breach my fiduciary responsibility to rubber stamp a budget, especially when the “facts” seem to change on a daily basis.”
Board member Mark Stegeman seemed surprised by Sanchez’ claims. “The administration’s own data show that TUSD has had an operating deficit in the fiscal year about to close, before even attempting to deal with any additional budget cuts from the state.”
Despite efforts by minority board members, Stegeman and Hicks, to drive more money into the classrooms and away from administration, they are outnumbered and the dollars in the classroom continue to plunge.
“At the end of the day, we [the State] have published our budget,” said State Representative Mark Finchem. “The same can’t be said for TUSD. We respect the role of local school board decision making on finances because school boards are closest to the issues, but the proper responsibility is for the school boards to put the money the state gives them in the classroom.”
Although it receives more per pupil than most school districts in Arizona, fewer dollars go into the TUSD classrooms as compared to other districts.