TUSD board rejects discussing Ethnic Studies review panel
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The group Tucsonans United for a Sound District wanted the Tucson Unified School District's governing board to talk about possibly creating an Ethnic Studies review panel. The agenda item they were hoping for has been rejected.
A new law takes effect at the end of December. It forbids teaching anything racially divisive, and even mentions the idea that such programs could advocate overthrowing the government. The law, pushed through the Legislature by State School Superintendent Tom Horne, was made to order to target TUSD's Mexican American Studies program. Horne believes the program promotes racial division. If TUSD is found in violation of the new law, it could be out millions of dollars in state funding. Tucsonans United for a Sound District wants an independent board to review the program in order assure the district doesn't lose money.
"We're concerned with that because both school board member elect and sitting school board member Mark Stegeman have called for this panel. So we didn't originate the idea," said Loretta Hunnicutt, a member of the group.
KGUN 9 On Your Side took the group's concerns straight to school board member Adelita Grijalva. Sergio Avila asked Grijalva to respond to the group's comments that the board wasn't listening to the community's wishes.
"It really depends on what members of the community you're asking. I understand that there's a disappointment from this group of individuals, but there are many more people that I've spoken to that appreciate we're taking the time to find out from the state first," Grijalva said.
Grijalva tells KGUN 9 News she would be okay with a review panel once the state makes a determination if the courses are or are not in compliance with the law.
9OYS also tracked down school board member Dr. Mark Stegeman, who has advocated for the review panel in the past. Stegeman wanted it months ago and tells 9OYS having it at a time when you're welcoming new superintendent John Pedicone is bad timing.
"Tomorrow will be Dr. Pedicone's, only his second day on the new job, and I think the board felt it made sense to let him be part of the discussion before we make a major policy decision and I'm fine with that. I think that makes sense," Stegeman said.
Grijalva and Stegeman both agreed that revisiting the discussion at a later time would be beneficial for many reasons. Not only is a brand new superintendent joining the district, but TUSD is also getting a new board member, and the state is also welcoming a new state superintendent, John Huppenthal.
Both told KGUN 9 News involving all these new players in the ethnic studies conversation is the right thing to do.