A group of parents and teachers is calling for the resignation of the chairman of a state committee convened to look at unifying many of Arizona's school districts.
Preserve Madison is a political action committee composed mostly of people living in the Madison School District in north central Phoenix whose members say Martin Shultz, chairman of the School District Redistricting Commission, should resign because of a conflict of interest.
"The whole purpose of the commission was to study redistricting, make recommendations about what districts should be unified and then present those recommendations to the public," said Sarah Speer, spokeswoman for the Preserve Madison group. "But I walked away from the June 10 forum feeling like something was not quite right. Like I was getting a sales pitch. I'm uncomfortable with the tenor from the committee that this is a done deal."
Speer said she and her fellow members believe Shultz should not take a position on unification because he is a member of the taxpayer-funded commission.
The group plans to file a complaint with the Maricopa County Elections Department later this week.
Shultz said he did not have any idea what the Madison group meant by conflict of interest and said he has no intention of resigning.
He said while the commission is being careful to stick to its list of frequently asked questions and answers in public presentations, individual commissioners are free to campaign for or support unification proposals in any way they would like.
"Do I support the recommendations of the SDRC? Absolutely," he said. "I think they're good for Arizona schools and especially for the students."
Shultz said the commission drafted recommendations that will increase pay for teachers, decrease class sizes and in general direct more money into the classroom to improve student achievement.
The commission met for about two years and looked at 108 elementary districts and 15 union high school districts out of Arizona's 227 districts to determine which should be unified.
In the East Valley, the only school districts involved in the unification plans are the Tempe and Kyrene elementary districts and the Tempe Union High School District, which would be combined into one K-12 district serving an estimated 43,000 students under the proposed plan.
Kyrene school board president Sue Knudson said she is not surprised to hear Shultz publicly supporting the unification plans.
Knudson said she's talked to many people about the issue and the conclusion of all of them is that Shultz is within his legal right to both campaign for the plans and serve on the commission.
"From an ethical stance, though, I think it is a conflict."