Tucson District Superintendent Welcomes Ducey's Plan To Expand Charter Schools

By Steve Shadley
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 - 5:53pm
Updated: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 12:03pm
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(Photo by Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services)
Gov. Doug Ducey delivering inaugural address in January 2015.

Governor Doug Ducey is providing details about his proposal to create more room for charter schools in vacant district classroom buildings. The governor promoted his plan to a group of business leaders in Tucson Tuesday. 

During his State of the State address on Monday, Ducey announced he wants to expand charter and private schools within existing public school districts.

“Right now there are some 400,000 empty seats in our public school system," Ducey said. "In fact, some public schools are completely vacant. These are educational assets funded by the taxpayer meant to benefit our children and they are going to waste."

His plan would allow well-performing charter schools to apply to use empty classrooms or buildings closed by districts.

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said his district closed 21 schools after state lawmakers passed 2010’s strict anti-immigration law known as SB 1070.

“If you look at two cross sections with 1070 and then the housing bust, our enrollment has declined by anywhere between 750, 1,000 to 2,500 students a year,” Sanchez said.

TUSD has sold or leased 14 of those schools, but seven remain vacant and could be eligible for charter or private schools to move in under Ducey’s proposal. 

But Sanchez isn’t worried TUSD will lose a lot of students.

“Arizona is all about competition and this is not something we fear," Sanchez said. "I think in the beginning we did because we weren’t as prepared as we needed to be, but I feel today we are better prepared than we have ever been."

He hopes TUSD can apply for state education loans the governor talked about Monday that will help it expand its magnet and high performing schools so 400 students on waiting lists can enroll in the future.