States

Ariz. Schools Chief Sparks Outcry with Comment on Labor Leader

February 23, 2010 1 min read

It sounds like Arizona’s schools chief needs to brush up on some recent American history, namely that of the farm labor movement.

Tom Horne, the superintendent of public instruction who is running now for state attorney general, recently referred to Dolores Huerta, the farm labor organizer and long-time political and social activist, as the “former girlfriend” of Cesar Chavez. Chavez, the late labor leader, founded, with Huerta, the union that became the United Farm Workers. Ms. Huerta is married to Mr. Chavez’s brother, Richard Chavez.

Horne’s blunder, uttered during an appearance before a legislative committee last week, rankled Democrats and social activists across his state, but the schools chief has brushed off the criticism. Horne made his comment during testimony in favor of a bill to ban courses in public schools that promote hatred of another race or the overthrow of the U.S. government.

The genesis of that measure stems largely from an appearance Huerta made at a high school in Tucson nearly four years ago. According to press accounts, Huerta told students that “Republicans hate Latinos.” Horne, a Republican, later dispatched one of his top deputies, a member of the GOP who grew up in a Spanish-speaking, immigrant home, to the school to counter Huerta’s remarks.

During her speech, students in the schools Raza Studies program turned their backs, raised their fists, and then walked out of the assembly. That episode spurred Horne to push for bans (unsuccessfully, so far) on ethnic studies courses in four Tucson-area high schools and for replacement of school board members who support such courses.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

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