Ethnic Studies: What now after the vote to dismantle?
TUSD moved immediately to end the classes. Arizona's School Superintendent says he'll take steps to ensure compliance before formally waiving millions in fines. Video by kgun9.comvideo
The TUSD Board voted 4 to 1 to end Mexican American Studies classes to avoid almost $15 Million in penalties from the Arizona Department of Education.
In one demonstration, protesters portrayed then State Education Superintendent Tom Horne as the devil. Horne wrote the law targeting TUSD's Mexican American Studies. Now Arizona Attorney General, he's pleased with the TUSD vote.
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Some TUSD students and teachers were forced to switch gears Wednesday, in a move that should help the district avoid about $15 million in fines.
Even though the district's Mexican American studies program has been described as successful and even praised by the audit paid for by the state, the classes were replaced with regular social studies after the TUSD board voted to end the special program in the face of a state that regarded the program's teachings as racially divisive.
Some teachers already teach regular history classes- so they already have their course work laid out.
But school officials say- students will not fall through the cracks.
TUSD Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone says, "No student will lose credit, be sensitive to the fact that there may be some misunderstanding, and do what we can to help students understand what they need to."
So now the question is, what now? Did the board vote satisfy the state school superintendent and rescue the district from a crushing cut in state funds?
State school superintendent John Huppenthal ruled the program taught Mexican American courses in a way that fostered resentment between the races.
Huppenthal says the TUSD board needs to take better control of what's taught in the schools.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith said to Huppenthal: "Some of the critics pose the opposite argument. They said, 'Well, here elements of state government are getting in the way of local control."
Huppenthal: "Well, I'm obsessed with local control. This issue should never have come up to state government. I viewed this entire thing with distaste. It was always within statutory power for the TUSD board to get control of this issue and solve it locally but because of the factions, because of the power struggles that were going on, they were incapable of doing that."
The TUSD vote was a victory for Attorney General Tom Horne. When he was State School Superintendent he wrote the law used against TUSD after he felt Tucson Mexican American studies students insulted one of his deputy superintendents. As he made the program a target, program supporters targeted him with demonstrations.
Horne said, "I believe these kids don't learn to be impolite at home. I believe their parents at home teach them to be polite. It's these Raza Studies teachers that teach them to be rude and get into people's faces and that's very dysfunctional you cannot succeed as an adult if you cannot deal with disagreements in a civil way."
But program supporters argue Mexican American studies teach valuable history and culture. Right after the vote, Attorney Richard Martinez said the courts may restore the program.
He said, "One of the Constitutional challenges to what's happened here is the equal protection violation; that Latino students have been singled out, treated differently and now their educational opportunities have been limited unlike any other group in the District."
Now Huppenthal says he'll work to ensure TUSD has truly dismantled the program and make sure teachers are not continuing to teach unauthorized material.
He expects to draw the conclusions he needs to draw in time to send next month's state aid to TUSD without interruption.