9OYS Education Watch
TUSD kills Ethnic Studies program in tumultuous meeting
TUSD Board Member Adelita Grijalva was the only board member voting in opposition to the motion to end the program. Video by kgun9.comvideo
A raucous crowd of protesters, some concealing their faces with bandanas, gathered outside the meeting room
A wider view of the crowed gathered outside the TUSD meeting room Tuesday night
One protester inside the meeting room shouted down board member Miguel Cuevas and called board members cowards.
The TUSD board
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Facing the loss of almost 15 million dollars in state funding, the TUSD board voted four to one Tuesday night to kill the district's controversial Mexican American Studies program.
The Mexican American Studies vote drew passionate demonstrations outside the TUSD board meeting...and passionate arguments inside it.
Longtime activist Salomon Baldenegro says the law being used against TUSD comes from Republican state lawmakers hostile to Mexican Americans.
"They got to the point where they criminalized our very existence with SB1070. And now they're criminalizing our history. I cannot conceive of a reasonable person not being outraged by a history being criminalized and being termed to be illegal, especially the history of the largest constituent group in TUSD."
State lawmakers passed a law targeting TUSD's program. State superintendent John Huppenthal ruled TUSD violated that law by teaching Hispanics have not only been victims of discrimination, but they are still victims today. His penalty: ten percent of state funding...for TUSD, that would be almost 15 million dollars a year. But program advocates urged the board to appeal the ruling in court.
Mexican American Studies put the board in a terrible bind. Should they kill a program revered by the Hispanic community and praised for raising student achievement, or let the state education department tear a 15 million dollar hole in the TUSD budget?
Board member Michael Hicks posed the motion to suspend Mexican American studies, transfer students to courses that will preserve their credits, and develop a new multi cultural curriculum.
Board member Adelita Grijalva urged the board to preserve the program and fight through an appeal.
"This is a group of passionate people about their education and the education of their children. This is not a militarized group that wants to overthrow the government. This is not a group that is seeking ethnic solidarity. This is a group that wants their children to understand about their culture and their role in our American history and our lives."
Grijalva thinks the district could win a case over when the law is constitutional.
Miguel Cuevas said he supports Mexican American Studies but could not allow the district to risk millions of dollars, the crowd began to shout him down...
One woman referred to demonstrators chanting outside as she shouted:"Listen to the community outside. You cowards! You cowards! You are such cowards!
Board President Mark Stegeman called a recess to cool things down.
After recess, he said he saw appeal as a losing effort.
"Even if we were to appeal and even if we were to prevail I think it is clear that the Legislature, which unambiguously does have the power to set limits on curriculum that's not the legal point at issue, would come back with legislation designed to withstand appeal, written around the findings of the administrative law judge."
Then he called the vote which split four to one, with Cuevas, Hicks, Sugiyama and Stegeman voting to kill the program and Grijalva opposed.