Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias and his fellow charter school director Magdalena Verdugo are hosting a party for Tucson Unified School District Governing Board member Cam Juarez. The event is the second event Elias has sponsored for the embattled Juarez.
Juarez and his fellow Governing Board member Kristel Foster are under fire and investigation for allegedly illegal campaign contributions they received from a Phoenix-based vendor for the District. The vendor, ESI, provides non-union teachers to the District in its effort to avoid the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
The fact that Elias is a director for a charter school organization raised eyebrows. The fact that he would partner with a charter school operative to raise money for Juarez has shocked many public school advocates.
The charters are operated by CPLC Community Schools, an affiliate of Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc., according to its website. Elias became a director for the corporation in 2008, according to the Arizona Corporation Commission website. Along with serving as a director with Elias, Verdugo is also the “Southeast AZ Area Manager/Vice President, School Readiness at Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc.,” according to her LinkedIn profile.
A mere 5 percent of students enrolled in its Toltecalli High School (formerly Calli Ollin Academy), who took the AZMerit test, passed the English Language portion and a mere 6 percent passed the Math portion in 2015.
While Elias and Juarez have been vocal critics of charter schools, during Elias’s tenure on the Pima County Board of Supervisors has approved tens of millions of bond monies for their development.
When not being a hypocrite about charter schools, Elias also misleads invitees to Juarez’s fundraiser when he claims: “Cam and Kristel are true public education champions. They’ve voted for teacher raises three years in a row, they’ve approved significant multi-million dollar investments for student textbooks and technology, and they’ve passed balanced budgets that put more dollars into our classrooms.”
In fact, under the leadership of TUSD Board president Adelita Grijalva, Juarez, and Foster, the District allocates less than 50 percent of its funding to the classrooms. While touting a surplus, at Tuesday night’s Governing Board meeting, District CFO Karla Soto admitted that the District had been hoarding Prop 301 monies rather than paying them out to teachers over the past three years. During those years, teachers have fled the District in frustration, leaving the District with one of the highest teacher vacancy rates in Arizona.
TUSD Board member Michael Hicks stated, “If it weren’t for double standards, Cam would have no standards at all. This is the same guy who complains about charters from the dais? Unbelievable.”
“Pima County has approved tens of millions of bond monies for the development of charter schools in other counties and states. Tucson is one of the poorest metropolitan areas in the nation. Our main focus should be the economic development in our county. We can start by investing in our infrastructure such as repairing our roads and by doing so we can attract business to Tucson,” stated Martin Bastidas, the Green Party candidate running against Richard Elias.
Verdugo’s palatial home is nestled in the suburban foothills overlooking the mostly inner-city District. Attendees are advised to watch for mule deer crossing the winding roads.