Tucson school district to dismantle ethnic studies

AP News

1/11/2012 9:08:30 AM - AP News

A school district in Tucson voted to dismantle its ethnic studies program after more than $1 million of monthly state funding was to be cut off in response to conclusions by Arizona's public schools chief and a judge that the program violated the law.

The Arizona Daily Star ( http://bit.ly/yyTSjC) reports that the 4-1 vote Tuesday by the Tucson Unified School District means courses in the district's Mexican-American Studies program will cease immediately.

Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal last week ordered that 10 percent of the district's monthly state aid, amounting to more than $1 million per month, be withheld until the district follows the law.

Huppenthal concluded during the summer that the program violated the law. The district appealed Huppenthal's earlier findings, and an administrative law judge in December upheld the decision by the schools chief.

The judge ruled that the program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.

All board members supported revamping either the program or some classes so they are more comprehensive and include the contributions of all ethnicities.

Board member Adelita Grijalva, the dissenting vote, called for the district to continue to defend the program in court and to challenge the law's constitutionality.

"This is an issue that is not going to go away by this vote. When bad laws are written, they are usually picked up by other states. This is an opportunity to fight a bad law," she said.

John Pedicone, the district's superintendent, said students will be transferred to existing traditional courses without jeopardizing class credits.

While the board voted to accept Huppenthal's finding and dismantle the program, the district has long held that it is not in violation of the law.

A group of Mexican American Studies educators and students who independently challenged the law suffered a blow in federal court.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied their request for an order to stop Huppenthal from taking further action against the district until their lawsuit is settled.

Judge A. Wallace Tashima also ruled their case may continue but dismissed claims filed by the teachers, saying they had no standing in the case because they could not prove that they would suffer irreparable harm.

But the judge will hear claims from at least one student identified as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The student has registered to take Mexican American Studies courses and will not be able to do so now that the courses have been eliminated.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com