Arizona District Fights to Keep Ethnic Studies Classes

By Corey Mitchell — January 06, 2015 1 min read
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Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez will fight to save the school system’s culturally relevant classes, despite facing the loss of million of dollars in funding, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

Former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal deemed several courses illegal during his final hours in office on Friday, leaving one of the state’s largest school districts facing a possible funding loss of $14 million annually.

In a statement, Huppenthal said the district failed to provide adequate information to the state on Mexican-American and African-American heritage courses. In Huppenthal’s letter to the district, he said that Tucson’s actions reveal a “program in disarray, with insufficient support for teachers, inadequate teaching to students and little transparency for parents and community members.”

The letter demands changes to the curriculum by March 4.

Sanchez told the newspaper that he is hopeful that the matter will be resolved by appeal or by Huppenthal’s successor, Diane Douglas, who was sworn in to office this week. Sanchez also told the Daily Star that district could not endure the loss of funds, but he wants to remain in compliance with a federal court order that mandates that the courses be taught.

The issue dates back to 2011, when a state law went into effect prohibiting districts and charter schools from offering classes that promote overthrowing the U.S. government, promote resentment for a certain race or class of people, are geared for students of a particular ethnic background, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of recognizing students as individuals. In 2013, a federal court upheld the law.

The Tucson district appealed after then-state schools Superintendent Tom Horne also found the district’s ethnic studies classes to be in violation of state law.

Tucson dropped the courses in 2012 under the threat of losing state funding and agreed to submit a revised curriculum to the state Department of Education, which Huppenthal deemed insufficient.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.