A bill introduced in the Arizona legislature would enable the Vail school district to take over an under-capacity high school campus in the neighboring Tucson district.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that the proposed legislation would provide a way for the Vail district to assume control of Tucson Unified’s Santa Rita High School, which has only about 450 students on a campus designed to accommodate more than 2,000.
The bill, proposed by state Rep. Todd Clodfelter, would require the Arizona School Facilities Board to take over any campus that is at less than 25 percent of its capacity and offer the school to a neighboring district for 10 percent of its assessed value.
Tucson school board member Michael Hicks assailed the plan as a “backroom deal” and characterized it as “part of the systematic dismantling of Tucson Unified School District.
Clodfelter acknowledges the bill is aimed squarely at allowing Vail to take over Santa Rita.
He says that letting Vail take control of Santa Rita would ease a classroom shortage in that district. Vail is growing rapidly and all five of its high schools are above or near capacity. At the same time, Tucson has been experiencing enrollment declines that have left many of its campuses below capacity.
The bill would save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, Clodfelter asserts, if Vail could gain additional classrooms without constructing a new high school.
Vail Superintendent Calvin Baker says he is skeptical that the lawmakers would approve the proposal.
“There are so many political and legal hurdles on this that we’re not banking on it,” he says.
Baker expects that Vail will push ahead with plans to pursue a bond issue and build its own high school.