Latino studies program in Tucson declared illegal
An Arizona state official has declared that an ethnic studies program on Latino culture is illegal under a new law that went effect on Jan. 1.
The official is Tom Horne, the newly elected state attorney general who wrote the law last year when he was Arizona’s education superintendent.
District officials say they aren’t breaking the law, and a group of teachers has filed suit challenging the law, which prohibits any classes that:
* Promote the overthrow of the United States government, including any suggestion that any U.S. lands once part of Mexico be returned.
* Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
* Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
* Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Horne insists that the program violates all four tenets of the law; the district says that’s nonsense.
Horne started blasting the program several years ago after learning that Hispanic civil right activist Dolores Herta told Tucson high school students that “Republicans hate Latinos.” When he sent a top aide to a school to present a different view, some of the students turned their backs on her and raised their fists in the air, angering Horne, The New York Times reported.
For three years he pushed the legislature to pass a law banning the program, and finally succeeded in 2010, when it was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. At the time the state was making national news for a tough crackdown on illegal immigration that remains a highly controversial issue.
In his final hours as superintendent late last week, he said he had decided that the program in the Tucson Unified School District violated the new law, which gives a 60-day period for the system to fix the problem.
However, Horne said the only way to do that was to scrap the program altogether, and if school officials refuse, the school district should lose 10 percent of its state funding, which amounts to almost $15 million.
The state’s new education superintendent supports Horne’s position.
According to The Arizona Republic, the Mexican-American studies program includes high-school class work about historical and contemporary Mexican-American contributions, social justice and stereotypes. Students may examine U.S. history from a Chicano perspective.
The program was first adopted as part of a desegregation order, which stemmed from a 1974 federal lawsuit by an African-American couple alleging racial bias. The Tucson school district started an African-American studies program and added Mexican-American studies in 1997.
The desegregation order was lifted in 2007 but the ethnic-studies programs were a key part of the settlement and they remained in place.
It is not clear, the Republic said, whether the new law will affect other programs or other school districts.
Horne didn’t say anything about any of those.
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| January 10, 2011; 5:00 AM ET
Categories: History | Tags: arizona schools, ethnic studies program, ethnic studies program declared illegal, latino studies, mexican-american studies program, tom horne, tucson schools
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