by Pamela Powers Hannley
Undoubtedly one of the more contentious local races this election season is the non-partisan 12-person race for three unpaid positions on the Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) Governing Board.
In this race, there are two University of Arizona professors, a call center supervisor, a Sunnyside School District employee, a self-employed landscaper, a lawyer, a Chamber of Commerce VP, a former TUSD teacher, a Pima County employee, and three business owners. (Isn't democracy grand?)
In this week's Tucson Weekly (TW), columnist Mari Herreras tackled the challenging task of profiling the 11 of the 12 candidates. (One of the business owers bowed out of the interview process.) When covering a hot topic like the TUSD board, I would have hoped that the TW would have chosen a more neutral reporter. Otherwise, they're just opening themselves up to comments from some blogger.
Although the TW story leads with some of the high points of the Mexican American Studies (MAS) controversy, it goes on to say, "Mexican American Studies isn't the only issue that the district faces." It's definitely not the only issue, but MAS must be the most important issue for Herreras and the TW.
I counted the topic mentions in the TW article, and here are the stats:
1) MAS- 30 mentions
2) TUSD's looming $17 million budget deficit- 10 mentions
3) School closures- 4 mentions
4) Miscellaneous topics that got 1-2 mentions:
spending more money in classrooms
Overall, the article discussed TUSD Board Superindent Dr. John Pedicone's raise and board politics more than student achievement or graduation rates.
In contrast, the Arizona Daily Star ran two articles highlighting the views of the TUSD candidates this week. One very lengthy article focused completely on budget and finance, while the other one tackled other issues, including what the candidates believe is the biggest problem facing the district and what they think about MAS. When asked about TUSD's biggest challenges, the answers ran the gamut but mostly focused on budget/finance or student achievement.
So, the TW coverage focused more on MAS than any other issue, and theStar devoted more column inches to budgetary problems. What about graduation rates, student achievement, skill-building, curriculum development, class sizes, testing, teacher development, teacher pay, money in the classrooms, white flight, charter schools, desegregation, Prop 204, or squeezing more money out of the Legislature?
If you want to learn more about this race and the issues facing TUSD, come to the candidate forum sponsored by Drinking Liberally tonight-- Wednesday, September 26-- at The Shanty.