TUSD spending changes aim to improve pay, classroom ratios - Tucson News Now

TUSD spending changes aim to improve teacher pay, classroom ratios

Superintendent H. T. Sanchez announces spending changes at Tucson Unified School District. Superintendent H. T. Sanchez announces spending changes at Tucson Unified School District.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson's largest school district says its students will benefit from a major shift in district spending.

The Tucson Unified School District will spend more on teachers and classrooms, and make those classrooms less crowded.

The district says that means smaller classroom size, more support for students and families, and raises for teachers who stay with the district.

The district says it will do most of it by belt-tightening and shifting dollars and personnel from the central office and into the schools.

For instance, specialists in dropout prevention, academics and other areas will be based at individual schools instead of the central office.

TUSD's new superintendent, H. T. Sanchez, who was hired last summer, announced the changes Friday, alongside TUSD Board President Adelita Grijalva.

As far as class sizes, right now grades two through 12 can have up to 40 students.

The plan calls for a teacher/student ratio of one to 27 in second through 12th grades.

It's no more than a one to 24 ratio in kindergarten and first grade.

Sanchez says TUSD is diverting $4.4 million from other areas, mostly the central office, to put into classrooms.

He says the district will spend up to $5 million to increase salaries for teachers who stay with the district.

Sanchez says there will be no layoffs.

In fact, he says the district will hire more teachers in core subjects of math, science and language arts, and in exceptional education and in elementary school level dual language.

A recent audit was highly critical of the district for not giving enough support to the classroom.

Sanchez says there are three things he's aiming for.

First, there's teacher retention which, he says, helps lead to improved test scores.

"We should see an improvement in student performance. We should see an improvement in student attendance. Then the third thing we should see is we should see parents who are much more satisfied with the work that is being done on the campuses," Sanchez says.

Teachers say they have often felt the district has left them alone, offering very little support.

So the announcement of support is welcome news for them and for principals whose focus is the students.

"To be able to provide our students with immediate services or immediate access to that type of support and really have a sustainable support system for our school is so important," says Safford K-8 International Baccalaureate Magnet School Principal Theresa Tenace.

"I think it's like the trickle down effect that whatever support you can give your teacher, it's definitely going to affect the student 100%," says Safford teacher, Claudia Martinez.

TUSD has suffered declining enrollment and has had to close schools.

In a district needing to increase test scores, decrease the dropout rate and retain good teachers, the hope is this shift in priorities will resonate among families looking for a good school for their children.

"We hope that as families see that we're dropping the student-to-teacher ratio, we're putting more dollars onto the campuses, we're putting more central support onto the schools and we're increasing the level of support, that families will say TUSD is heading in a positive direction. TUSD has listened to the community," Superintendent Sanchez says.

"My hope and expectation is this positive message translates into people saying we'll give TUSD another opportunity, if they've chosen to go somewhere else, or that they'll say, 'We're looking forward to enrolling or continuing our enrollment in TUSD,'" Sanchez says.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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