Sat, April 04

Editorial: Consolidation election clarity at heart of SB1073

When it comes to school district consolidation, we prefer clarity to confusion.

As succinctly summarized last year by Consolidation Advisory Committee Chairman Dan Mabery, “What doesn’t make sense is the many laws of Arizona that have made consolidation expensive and tough to do.”

Mabery also said, “If there is an obstruction in the law … then we should work to change that law.”

That cuts to the chase of the intent and purpose of Sen. Sylvia Allen’s latest effort to tweak Arizona’s law on school district unification.

SB 1073 was needed for three distinct reasons:

• The first was to make it perfectly clear that the Valley Academy of Career and Technical Education would continue to exist and serve the same students should Mingus and Cottonwood-Oak Creek consolidate.

• The second was to allow the State of Arizona to provide $50,000 in unification assistance funding should voters approve consolidation.

• The third deals with what Mabery was talking about when he said, “If there is an obstruction in the law … then we should work to change that law.”

If nothing else, bring full clarity to what the law requires.

Specifically, it deals with how many elections we need to decide if Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus should consolidate into one.

There are those who interpret the law as it is now written that say we need three distinct ballots. One for Mingus. Another for Cottonwood-Oak Creek. And, finally, a third for Clarkdale-Jerome. Everyone would vote twice. A successful consolidation would require an affirmative vote from each individual district.

Others say there should only be ballot questions in the Clarkdale-Jerome and Cottonwood-Oak Creek districts since the two of them combined make up the Mingus Union District. This scenario again would require an affirmative vote from each district for consolidation to become reality.

Finally, Sen. Allen has said the election protocol not only needs clarity, but also simplicity. She prefers to see all the voters in all three school districts vote on a single ballot. Majority vote would determine if consolidation is to sink or swim.

From every angle, this simplistic approach is being debated on the merits of fairness. What’s fair being determined based on which side of the consolidation fence you are standing.

Some say it’s not fair to have the majority block of voters – 17,524 in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek boundaries – deciding if Clarkdale-Jerome should be divorced from the Mingus Union District.

Others say it is not fair to allow a minority number of voters – 2,605 in the Clarkdale-Jerome District – to have veto power over the majority should those Mingus-COC voters favor consolidation.

Depending on what is ultimately decided, there will be those who claim the process is not fair.

Some say the same about life.

Fair or not, it has to be one way or the other. Multiple independent ballots, or one single ballot that determines majority rule.

The decision will be clearly written into Arizona law.

Like it or not, at least we will have clarity on the issue.

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