TUCSON – The Tucson Unified School District spent tens of thousands of dollars to recruit teachers from the East Coast and the South at a time when 600 TUSD teachers were receiving pink slips.
TUSD staffers made at least 14 trips to various parts of the country including Detroit; Nashville, Tenn.; and Brooklyn at a cost of roughly $31,000. Although some trips occurred after the layoff notices went out April 3, travel was largely curtailed in late April.
District officials said the recruiting effort launched at an unfortunate time.
“Obviously, success this year is going to look different than what we expected, given that we experienced layoffs of a magnitude we haven’t seen in well over 20 years,” said Alyson Nielson, the district’s director of employment services for human resources.
When the recruiting effort began, she said, “Nobody knew at the time how bad the budget cuts were going to be.”
The layoff notices were given to educators who had worked for TUSD three years or less.
Some question the district spending money on outside recruiting.
“It just seems that in a tight budget year, it’s a waste of public money to recruit teachers when there’s a glut of teachers on the market,” said Dick Basye, the vice president of the Pima Association of Taxpayers.
Basye said the district didn’t need to go elsewhere to increase diversity because Arizona is a diverse state already.
“You would think there’s an ample supply of applicants.”
District officials said the recruiting effort was intended to bring highly qualified teachers to Tucson while also adding minority teachers in a district that’s under a federal desegregation order to balance its schools.
Administrators said the effort was a success, noting it yielded 15 new, highly qualified teachers one of whom will teach math and the rest special education.
Recruiting qualified minority teachers has been front and center in TUSD’s plan submitted to a federal judge to get out from under a decades-old desegregation order to balance its schools.
Though only 30 percent of TUSD students are Anglo, nearly 70 percent of its teachers are.
Hispanics make up 56 percent of students, but 23 percent of district teachers.
Blacks are 7 percent of the student population, but only 3 percent of the teaching staff.
Rubin Salter, an attorney representing black plaintiffs in the decades-old lawsuit seeking racial equity, said black teachers were hit hard by the layoffs, because many are new to the field.
Salter said he wants to see not only more black teachers, but more of them teaching challenging academic areas.
“The district supposedly had 30 years to correct a legal injustice,” he said. “What they did in those 30 years did not remove the vestiges of discrimination when it comes to hiring and promoting black teachers.”