9OYS Education Watch
TUSD loses appeal in ethnic studies battle
Administrative judge's ruling clears the way for a 10% funding penalty
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Tucson Unified School District has lost its Ethnic Studies appeal. An administrative law judge has sided with state schools superintendent John Huppenthal, ruling that TUSD's program violates state law. The ruling clears the way for Huppenthal to slap TUSD with a hefty penalty.
TUSD released a statement Wednesday that said the district and its legal counsel are reviewing the judge's decision. "Now our governing board will discuss the options available," said TUSD Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone. "I have every confidence that the board will act in the best interests of students." The board is expected to meet next week.
Over the summer Huppenthal overruled his own investigative panel, and found that TUSD's program violates the new state law designed to place strict limits on ethnic studies programs. The law forbids, among other things, ethnic studies programs that teach racial solidarity or that are aimed at a specific ethnicity. TUSD appealed, arguing that its program is in compliance with state law. Administrative Judge Lewis Kowal has now upheld Huppenthal's decision.
Late Tuesday afternoon Huppenthal issued a statement applauding Judge Kowal's ruling. "In the end, I made a decision based on the totality of the information and facts gathered during my investigation – a decision that I felt was best for all students in the Tucson Unified School District. The Judge’s decision confirms that it was the right decision."
But TUSD board president Miguel Cuevas told KGUN9 News, "At this point we will review the direction of the administrative law judge. We believe that we are in compliance with this law, and we will take whatever path is necessary." Cuevas said that Huppenthal's decision was "predictable."
Huppenthal said he will issue a final ruling "in the near future" after reviewing the judge's decision.
The ruling allows Huppenthal to enact a cut in TUSD's funding of up to 10%. Andrew LeFevre with the state Department of Education told KGUN9 News Tuesday afternoon that sanctions could cost TUSD up to $15 million dollars in 2012. LeFevre said he expects the superintendent to decide on a course of action within 30 days.
Attorney John Messing, whom KGUN9 News frequently consults for his expertise on legal matters, said Tuesday evening that if TUSD wants to continue the fight, the next step likely would be to file suit in state court.
A separate action challenging the law is pending in federal court. Richard Martinez, the attorney for plaintiffs in that case, told KGUN9's Kevin Keen Tuesday evening that in his ruling, Judge Kowal did not examine whether the state law regulating ethnic studies is constitutional. Martinez said that is an issue in the federal case.
When he ruled against TUSD's program in June, Huppenthal said that the course fosters resentment by teaching Latinos they are an oppressed minority. "They failed to comply with their own board policies on review of curriculum," Huppenthal said at the time. "They failed to comply with state law on development of curriculum."
He added that the program is designed to attract minorities in a way that amounts to segregation.
The full text of Judge Kowal's ruling is available in the "related documents" section on the left side of this page.