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2016 Desegregation Legislation


Arizona statute allows school districts who are under a federal order of desegregation to levy property taxes in order to comply with the agreements between the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) or a federal court order. Districts may levy for these funds without a vote. These funds allow districts to implement programs and services intended to alleviate the effects of systemic segregation within the district.

Currently, 19 Arizona school districts use desegregation levies. There are 2 ways a district would come under a desegregation order. One is through a complaint process with OCR; a complaint (or complaints) are filed with OCR, who investigates the complaint. Typically, in order to avoid a long and expensive court proceeding, a district would negotiate an agreement with OCR which details the actions the district agrees to take to comply with the agreement. The other avenue is when someone files a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Those districts are then under a court order to undertake specific activities. Both of these processes result in a legally binding agreement between the district and the federal government.

During the ‘60’s and ‘70’s many of Arizona school districts contained high-socioeconomic/low minority schools and low-socioeconomic/high minority schools, with wide variations in the services provided for students depending on which school they attended.  For example, high-socioeconomic/low minority schools had nurses, counselors, librarians and a variety of programs not found in low-socioeconomic/high minority schools. These inequities resulted in the OCR agreements and court orders. 

Current Legislation

HB 2401/SB 1125 would phase-out the ability for districts to levy for desegregation funding; within five years for those district under an OCR agreement and within ten years for districts who are under a court order, once they reach unitary status. The only district not in unitary status is Tucson Unified. 

The Senate and House bills are identical and are ready for floor action and could reach the Governor’s desk as early as this week. Contact your legislators and ask them to oppose these bills.

Talking Points

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