New Schools Chief plans own TUSD Ethnic Studies probe
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - Arizona's new school superintendent has announced he will conduct his own assessment of TUSD's controversial ethnic studies program.
But right now, John Huppenthal agrees with former superintendent and current Attorney General, Tom Horne, that the district is breaking the law and could be fined almost 15 million dollars in state aid.
Tom Horne pushed through the law to target TUSD's Ethnic Studies, but it took effect when he had just a few days left in his term as superintendent. Now it's up to new superintendent John Huppenthal to decide if TUSD should lose close to ten-percent of its state funding.
Tom Horne has contended for years that TUSD's Ethnic Studies separates students by race and teaches them they are oppressed by a culture that victimizes minorities. New superintendent John Huppenthal says he thinks Tom Horne's conclusions are correct but he'll still conduct his own investigation.
"If there's anyone oppressing these kids its not a white Caucasian power structure it's a school district that fails to give them an excellent education. And Tucson Unified School District right now is failing to give these kids an excellent education. That's what the academic data shows and we would suggest these classrooms are part of that failure," Huppenthal said.
"TUSD frequently points to a claim of very high achievement of students in these ethnic studies programs. What do you make of that? Is there some positive there?" KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Huppenthal.
"Well we would also suggest they're not rigorous in their analysis. We've taken a look at that data and they are comparing apples to oranges when they do that," Huppenthal responded.
Now to avoid losing almost 15 million in state aid, TUSD has 60 days to convince the Huppenthal it is not violating the ethnic studies law.
"What's going to satisfy you 60 days from now?" Smith asked.
"Right now we are inclined to uphold Attorney General Tom Horne's finding. We're going to continue to review the evidence. We remain open to discussions. We want to establish a high standard for those discussions but it is highly likely we will uphold those findings and the final resolution of this will be in the courts," Huppenthal said.
Huppenthal cites some of TUSD's own web pages as evidence the Ethnic Studies program violates the law. The law forbids programs primarily designed for any particular group. Huppenthal cites language that he says clearly states a focus on Latino students.
Tom Horne always refused to visit Ethnic Studies classrooms. He said teachers would simply teach innocuous material with him present. Huppenthal has already visited TUSD ethnic studies classes and said he did hear teaching he found inappropriate.