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Debate Over Ethnic Studies in Tucson Heats Up

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 17, 2011 1 min read
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Update 11:20 p.m.: The school board of Tucson Unified School District voted 4 to 1 to appeal in a state administrative hearing a ruling by the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppental that the district’s ethnic-studies program violates state law. See my story published by Education Week today.

Original post: The conclusion of a state audit of the Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson Unified School District contradicts the determination by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal on whether the program complies with a state law.

Huppenthal announced Monday that Tucson Unified’s Mexican-American studies program was out of compliance with the state law banning courses that are designed for a particular ethnic or racial group or promote ethnic solidarity. He gave the school district 60 days to comply or lose 10 percent of its state funding.

But the audit that the Arizona Department of Education commissioned to investigate the program’s compliance drew the opposite conclusion, as the author of Blog for Arizona pointed out this week in the comment section of this blog.

Here’s what the audit says: “During the curriculum audit period, no observable evidence was present to suggest that any classroom within the Tucson Unified School District is in direct violation of the law.”

Huppenthal followed up yesterday with a press release saying that the audit was limited and “the majority of the information collected by the [Arizona Department of Education] was obtained from sources outside of the independent curriculum audit.” He said he made his determination on “the totality of the information and facts gathered” during a monthlong investigation.

See coverage on the debate in The Arizona Republic and The Wall Street Journal.

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