The Kyrene School District is close to completing its formal response to two redistricting plans that would make the district part of a unified K-12 district. The response, a letter addressing the School District Redistricting Commission that is in charge of unification efforts, will urge the commission to leave Kyrene - as well as the Tempe Union High and Tempe Elementary school districts - alone. "Our recommendation is that the SDRC exercise the option... of not forwarding a unification plan for our school district to the governor for placement on the ballot in November of 2008," reads the first draft of the response. The draft, written by Kyrene board president Sue Knudson, was read at Tuesday's regular board meeting. Board members made various suggestions, which Knudson said she would add to the second draft before posting the letter to the district's Web site. The rejection of both plans comes as little surprise, as all three local districts affected by SDRC efforts have blasted the two plans to redraw district boundaries. The biggest objection all districts have raised is the lack of monetary incentive to unify. Monies used to align things like educational software, human resource components and computer software, the districts have said, will have to come out of classroom spending. "As we considered the relevant research, analyzed the details of unification and engaged our community, it became very clear that Kyrene's children stand to gain little, if anything from unification and in the absence of substantial, additional financial support from the state, Kyrene's children would lose a great deal," Knudson's letter reads. Another objection, also monetary, involves the discrepancy between the salaries of high school and elementary school teachers. One state law funds high school district teachers at a higher rate than other districts, while another law mandates that all teachers within one school district must be on the same pay scale. This conflict could have consequences in a newly unified district, officials have said. High school teachers in a new K-12 district could see a freeze on their salaries while elementary teachers "catch up," and the money to raise the salaries of elementary and middle school teachers would have to come from somewhere. "The unfunded cost of aligning salary schedules (estimated at $8 million) would necessitate increases in classes sizes and reductions in educational programs and teacher and student support services," reads a position statement attached to Knudson's letter. Other concerns, such as Kyrene's potential loss of its $3.9 million per year Career Ladder program or Tempe Elementary's potential loss of its $13 million desegregation order, are addressed in the letter. The Tempe Union High and Tempe Elementary school districts are expected to draft similar letters soon. "The three superintendents met following their (June 20 tri-district) meeting, and they were trying to see how close they were to agreeing," said Linda Littell, spokeswoman for the Tempe Union district. "At that time it appeared they were all under a consensus to issue similar responses to the commission." The two plans currently under review are the three-into-one and three-into-two plans. The Kyrene, Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union High school district governing boards were sent the two plans April 30. All districts have until Sept. 15 to formally response to the plans. After receiving formal responses to their initial plans, the SDRC will submit a final plan to the governor by the end of this year. That plan will be put to voters on the December 2008 ballot. Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com.

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