Ethnic Studies: TUSD to appeal state findings

The ethnic studies battle takes it's next big turn.

CREATED Jun 17, 2011 - UPDATED: Jun 18, 2011

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TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The majority of TUSD board members voted on Friday to appeal the recent findings of the state education department that the ethnic studies program violates state law. It was a decision that didn't come down easily.

Prior to the meeting, ethnic studies teachers and supporters called on district leaders to stand up against State Superintendent John Huppenthal.

"This is a man who will do anything for his own personal agenda and political motivations. He'll injure our students, our program and our community to get personal gain" said Curtis Acosta, a teacher within the program.

Ethnic studies supporters celebrated the results of the recent state audit which found that the program hasn't broken any laws. But that didn't matter. The state education department did more of their own research, finding that ethnic studies does violate state law. They provided dozens of passages from course books to prove it. They also believe that auditors didn't get the full scope of what ethnic studies is all about, because only 37% of classrooms were observed for thirty minutes, and that the district knew in advance when the observations would take place.

Now, TUSD has sixty days to get the course in check or they'll lose $15 million.

"A ten percent penalty to this district will seriously debilitate my ability to operate this district" said Superintendent Pedicone at Friday's meeting. He asked board members to vote to appeal the state's findings which would force a hearing to take place, which would give Pedicone some direction on how to fix what may be wrong with ethnic studies.

Board member, Adelita Grijalva asked "I want to know from the state... what is it that you want? Do you want us to provide more oversight? Do you want us to review the curriculum in detail?"

Board member Judy Burns called it "despicable" that three board members stalled an executive session meeting, in her opinion, without offering remedies for the situation.

Eventually, the majority of the board agreed to appeal the state's findings, except board President, Dr. Mark Stegeman. He felt that TUSD could still get advice from the state on how to fix ethnic studies without appealing the state's decision. The district has 30 days to file that appeal. Ethnic studies teachers will also file a court motion to put the state's decision on hold.

Spokesman Andrew LeFevre from the Arizona Department of Education did not have a comment on the board's decision late Friday. While he's not sure that an appeal would give the district more clarity when it comes to bringing ethnic studies in compliance with law, LeFevre indicated that the state has curriculum experts who would likely be able to help formulate an acceptable curriculum.

Also on Friday, Tucsonans United for Sound Districts announced that they are calling for the immediate resignations of board members Judy Burns and Adelita Grijalva as well as all other TUSD staff members who refused to cooperate with the audit investigation. Neither Burns nor Grijalva responded to KGUN 9's request for comment on the matter by deadline on Friday.