9OYS Education Watch
Huppenthal issues order penalizing TUSD for ethnic studies
Friday afternoon the state served papers announcing a 10% funding cut.
Friday afternoon the state served papers announcing a 10% funding cut. Video by kgun9.comvideo
ADE chief John Huppenthal speaks with KGUN9's Craig Smith Friday in Phoenix.
Last year ethnic studies supporters took over the TUSD board room to prevent a vote against the program. The effort succeeded.
New board member Dr. Alexandre Sugiyama
An Ethnic Studies class in session at TUSD
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Late Friday morning Arizona education boss John Huppenthal issued his decision on the fate of the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson Unified School District. As expected, Huppenthal accepted an administrative judge's ruling. He slapped TUSD with a 10% funding cut, and made it retroactive to August of 2011. The order will cost TUSD millions it's already said it can't afford to lose.
In a press release made available to KGUN9 News late Friday morning, Huppenthal stated, “After careful consideration of Judge Kowal’s decision, the months-long investigation of TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Program and the totality of the evidence gathered and thoroughly analyzed leading up to my June 15 ruling, I hereby accept Judge Kowal’s recommendation in its entirety. The evidence is substantial and it is clear: TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Program is in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112."
Under the terms of Huppenthal's order made public Friday morning, Huppenthal made the funding penalty retroactive to August 15, 2011. That is the date on which TUSD's 60-day window for bringing its program into compliance under the terms of Huppenthal's June ruling expired. However, late Friday afternoon Arizona Department of Education spokeman Andrew LeFevre confirmed to KGUN9 News that if TUSD brings its ethnic studies program into compliance, the department will give back all of the penalty money.
It's been estimated that the full penalty amounts to about $15 million a year.
In justifying that penalty late Friday morning, Huppenthal wrote, "The assertion that TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Program was designed and implemented only to promote cultural diversity and a greater understanding of the role of Mexican Americans in this nation is inaccurate and incomplete. Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Program courses, curriculum and classroom materials have been found to (1) promote resentment toward a race or class of people; (2) be designed primarily for the pupils of a particular ethnic group; and (3) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."
Huppenthal said TUSD's program is characterized by what he called a "troubling theme." Specifically, he said the course teaches students that "Latino minorities have been and continue to be oppressed by a Caucasian majority."
In his statement, Huppenthal urged the TUSD board to take immediate steps to bring its ethnic studies program into compliance. He did not suggest what those steps should be. But Huppenthal wrote, "Going forward, my hope and expectation is that the TUSD Board, with the support and leadership of Superintendent Pedicone, will develop a transparent, public process to insure that all curriculum and course materials align with state education standards and applicable laws and are thoroughly vetted by educators, curriculum experts and the local community."
On December 27, administrative Judge Lewis Kowal rejected TUSD's appeal of Huppenthal's June, 2011 finding that TUSD's program violates a law formerly known as HB 2281, which went into effect last year. The law bans ethnic studies programs that, among other things, teach racial solidarity or that are designed for students of just one ethnicity. Under the terms of Judge Kowal's ruling, Huppenthal had up to 30 days to accept, reject or modify the decision. Judge Kowal's ruling did not address whether HB 2281 is constitutional, only whether Huppenthal was justified in making his ruling, which had rejected the findings of Huppenthal's own advisory panel.
The Tucson Unified School District has insisted that its program does not violate the new state law. It must now decide whether to scrap or alter the program, defy the state, or fight the decision in court. The latter two options likely would lead to at least a short-term funding loss.
Superintendent John Pedicone said last week that it's up to the board to decide what do to. He stopped short of making a specific recommendation. "Now our governing board will discuss the options available," Pedicone said at the time. "I have every confidence that the board will act in the best interests of students."
On Thursday the Mexican-American Studies Community Advisory Board issued a statement urging TUSD to fight Huppenthal and support the program. But with this week's swearing in of Dr. Alexandre Sugiyama to replace the late Judy Burns on the TUSD board, the fate of ethnic studies is very much in question. Sugiyama appears to be more conservative than Burns. He has not said how he might vote on ethnic studies. But this week Sugiyama's vote was instrumental in staging a coup on the board, resulting in the reinstatement of Mark Stegeman as board president. Stegeman lost his post last year amid sharp criticism that he had shown poor leadership in handling pro-ethnic studies protests that had disrupted board meetings.
On Friday afternoon, a spokesman for the state department of education confirmed that it had formally served TUSD with a legal document notifying the district of the funding cut. TUSD gets its state funding in monthly increments. The legal notice informed the district that its allotments will be adjusted going forward to reflect the 10% cut, with the start of the cut backdated to August 15, 2011.
The full text of Huppenthal's press release and of the state notice served on TUSD Friday afternoon are available in the "Related Documents" section on the left side of this page.