SALT LAKE CITY -- A school board member's complaint about inexperienced teachers at schools in Salt Lake City's working-class neighborhoods is raising a debate about perceived inequalities in public education.
Board member Michael Clara filed the federal civil rights complaint this week against his own school district, where administrators responded with a statement scolding him for ignoring protocols. Clara said he tried to bring up a discussion but was shut down at board meetings.
Clara said the district's own data shows west-side schools have long been a dumping ground for inexperienced or ineffective teachers.
"I'm looking at educational outcomes for students, and there's no dispute it's in an academic ditch for my community," said Clara, a Utah Transit Authority planner who lives in Glendale, a Salt Lake City neighborhood surrounded by major highways. "Over the years it has changed very little - most of our Hispanic students are dropping out of school."
The U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office will investigate the complaint, agency spokesman Jim Bradshaw told The Associated Press. The federal government can force changes in public schools or suspend funding if it decides a complaint is valid. Bradshaw offered no timeframe for the investigation.
Salt Lake City is bisected by Interstate-15, which marks two cities, one wealthy, the other mostly modest or poor. Clara lives on the west side, where he says schools have long been shortchanged.
At Meadowlark Elementary in Rose Park, another west-side neighborhood, district data show as many as 67 percent of teachers have been classified as ineffective, he said.