TUSD Board to vote on changing Raza Studies classes
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – Ethnic Studies, a program that was begun to educate students about Arizona's different cultures, has divided the state. On one end of the argument, opponents believe the Mexican-American classes should not be a part of the state's core curriculum because they believe its subject matter is too controversial. The state even tried to make the classes illegal by passing HB 2281, a bill banning any curriculum that could be racially divisive or promoting the overthrow of a government. On the other end of the argument, supporters believe Raza Studies are vital to a well-rounded education.
In the middle: Tucson Unified schools.
But now Dr. Mark Stegeman, a TUSD board member, has claimed he has a solution to keep the program from getting axed by the state. He suggests that the courses should be made into electives.
Right now, students can choose between taking American History or Mexican-American Studies (MAS) to meet the state's requirement for graduation. Under Stegeman's resolution, only Mexican-American Literature would count as a core credit. Other subjects under Raza Studies, like social studies and history, would count as electives.
Opponents call this plan a disguise that is really designed to first dismantle Ethnic Studies and then eventually kill it as a whole. The same ten teachers who filed a lawsuit against the state to keep Ethnic Studies held a press conference Monday morning outside TUSD's administrative offices.
"We're tired of having politicians tell us professionals how to conduct and how to teach kids," said Jose Gonzalez. Together, they called on Superintendent John Pedicone to publicly reject Stegeman's proposal.
9 On Your Side went inside the administrative office to get answers from Pedicone. He was not available for an interview. But KGUN9 did witness a discussion between Tucson High School student Angelica Peñaran and Stegeman.
"So why do you think he wants to end the program?" asked Nine On Your Side reporter Steve Nuñez.
"Well obviously, making the classes electives are going to make it much harder for students to take the classes," responded Peñaran. "Because of the amount of credits that we need to fulfill with our core classes we're not going to have space to take elective classes."
"So why not just listen to what the students want?" Nuñez then asked Stegeman.
"I think we are listening," said Stegeman. "We are listening to a very wide range of opinions."
Stegeman said even though a recent study, done by the district, shows Raza Studies has had marginal success in closing achievement gaps, only 5% of high school students choose to take MAS courses. Instead, under his proposal, Stegeman claims Raza studies would be expanded to include the rest of the student population who may only be interested learning about one of its many subjects. Stegeman denies claims he wants to kill Raza studies, even if the state's audit determines the program is not in compliance with the law.
"So why not just wait until the audit is completed before you propose your resolution," asked Nuñez.
"Because I would rather do something that I think would actually make sense for the program or improve teaching rather then the state coming in to make demands," said Stegeman.
TUSD Board President Judy Burns told 9 On Your Side she's against Stegeman's proposal. Burns said the state's audit, which is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks is supposed to determine the program's future. Still, the board is expected to vote on Stegeman's proposal at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. The meeting starts at 5 p.m.
According to Stegeman, board member Miguel Cuevas will cast the fifth and final vote that'll decide the fate of his proposal. 9 On Your Side called Cuevas but he has not responded.