PHOENIX -- Another school district consolidation bill is making its debut in the Arizona Legislature.
Senate Bill 1073 changes the election requirements for school district consolidation. It also “Continues the statutory authorization for the consolidation of a common school district that is part of a union high school district consisting of two or fewer common school districts with that union high school district,” according to the bill’s fact sheet.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Allen. The Senate Education Committee had its first meeting on the proposal Tuesday.
Last year, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a bill that allows a common district to be consolidated into a larger district. Meaning, Mingus Union could be absorbed into the existing Cottonwood-Oak Creek boundaries.
The bill appropriates $50,000 from the state General Fund to the Arizona Department of Education for the costs associated with school district consolidation.
SB 1073 also addresses the Joint Technical Education District problem.
One of the primary concerns during the 2018 consolidation effort was the impact it would have on the Verde Valley Academy for Career and Technical Education. SB 1073 allows a school district participating in a career/technical education district at the time the school district was unified or consolidated to keep participating in the CTE program. VACTE would then become part of the new district.
One part of the legislation that still remains unclear is Clarkdale-Jerome’s role in a future consolidation vote. Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter said it is a question he plans to bring to Sen. Allen.
The proposed legislation states: “If a majority of the votes cast in each district THAT IS PROPOSED TO BE CONSOLIDATED approved the consolidation, the districts are consolidated and become one district from and after June 30 next following the election … If parts of two or more school districts are proposed to be consolidated … a majority of the voters VOTES CAST in the part of the school district or districts proposed for consolidation must approve the consolidation.”
Phil Terbell, a member of the pro-consolidation group Committee for Better Upper Verde Valley Schools, said he interprets the language to mean that Clarkdale-Jerome and Cottonwood-Oak Creek are both members of the Mingus Union district.
“Therefore all citizens in the MUHS, COC, and C-J vote in the election,” he wrote in an email. “But only one canvass occurs, needing a majority of all voters to effectuate any change. So, there would not be a separate count of each district, only a simple majority of all votes cast, within the total.”