The Phoenix IDA, the Arizona Community Foundation, and Helios Education Foundation recently sponsored a report titled, “Desegregation Funding: History and Impact.” The report was published this fall by The Arizona State University Morrison Insititute.
In the report, the Morrison Institute concludes that desegregation programs in Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) have their origins in legal actions that were designed to correct inequities arising from a financial crisis that gripped the district 40 years ago. Although the district is no longer under federal court jurisdiction, it still faces many of the fiscal restraints that prompted the original suit.
Desegregation funding helps to address those challenges in an environment where education is otherwise sparsely supported financially. Ending desegregation funding would impose dramatic cuts on the district’s operational budget, forcing the closure of three full-service high schools – North, Chavez and Fairfax – that are 100 percent supported by desegregation funding. Closure of these schools would force students in the heart of the district to travel miles across the district to attend another school. This scenario would replicate the conditions that prompted the Castro suit and likely trigger either further court intervention or another lawsuit.
On the positive side, despite the aforementioned challenges PUHSD has an 81 percent four-year graduation rate – 3 points above Arizona’s average graduation rate. The district’s dropout rate (3.2 percent) is less than half of the national average and slightly less than the statewide four-year dropout rate. District officials credit much of PUHSD’s successes to the additional dollars provided by desegregation funding.