TUSD: We will defend Ethnic Studies until the end
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Tucson Unified School District's new superintendent has announced he will fight a new law banning a controversial Mexican-American studies program.
According to TUSD, students who take Ethnic Studies graduate 98 percent of the time and 80 percent of them go on to college. Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone believes that's only part of the reason why he's defending the courses. Those numbers didn't convince new Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. As state superintendent, Horne helped push HB2281 through the legislature. The law, aimed at TUSD's Ethnic Studies program, bans teaching anything racially divisive, and even mentions that such programs could advocate overthrowing the government. On Monday, he ruled that TUSD is not in compliance with HB2281.
The district now has 60 days to eliminate the course or face a ten-percent cut in state funding. KGUN9 News spoke to Pedicone and asked how he can assure parents that a cut of that magnitude won't happen.
"Well, I think what I can say with a great deal of confidence is that we're not going to do anything to jeopardize the greater welfare of this community and all of these students," Pedicone said.
TUSD won't go down without a fight. They'll get a hearing to prove they are in compliance and it'll be up to a judge to determine the fate of the course. Pedicone said in part their defense will include saying Tom Horne's findings don't reflect the class as it is today.
"In the letter itself there's nothing that speaks to the program as it currently exists. It really speaks to evidence that was provided by individuals in the past. It'll be hearsay information from people that I would be interested in hearing more about," Pedicone said.
If TUSD is still found out of compliance, TUSD's governing board will decide whether to keep fighting or drop the class. But Pedicone stopped just short of saying they'll eliminate the class if it gets to that point.
"I can't in all good conscience that on the face of this that I would recommend the jeopardizing the entire district for any whether it be a program or any purpose other than what is mandated by state law," Pedicone said.
The district may also benefit from a lawsuit being filed by 11 teachers claiming HB2281 violates the first and fourteenth amendments.
"We're making the argument that the law is not constitutional. So that's the first hurdle we have to get through. How can we be out of compliance with a law that's unconstitutional?" Pedicone asked. He couldn't tell KGUN9 how that suit might affect their 60 day appeal period. Regardless, TUSD's superintendent tells us he's very confident they will be successful in keeping the courses.