On April 26, 2011, the nation witnessed the defiant act of students in Tucson, Arizona standing up for the right to access their cultural history in education. Nine students, alumni, and supporters of Tucson Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies program chained themselves to the chairs of the TUSD governing board to prevent a vote from taking place that would have reduced the classes to second-class elective status.
TUSD has, unfortunately, let itself be bullied by the state of Arizona after the passing of the unconstitutional HB 2281 on May 11, 2010. Any district throughout the state that permits the teaching of Ethnic Studies will have 10% of their budget withheld each month. HB 2281 was signed into law only a few weeks after the signing of the controversial “Show me your papers” bill, SB 1070, which promotes racial profiling.
The Arizona legislature is acting with heavy sentiments of racism, xenophobia, and anti-migrant, anti-Latino rhetoric; this is why HB 2281 specifically targets TUSD’s highly successful Mexican American Studies Department, the nation’s only Ethnic Studies Department in a K-12 public school district. Data collected by the district throughout the years have shown the academic achievements of this program, such as a 97% graduation rate, a decreased dropout rate, 70% of students more likely to go on to higher education, and standardized testing results that greatly surpass the scores of students who do not take the classes.
On April 26, 2011, TUSD governing board president Dr. Mark Stegeman was scheduled to present a resolution that not only discredited the program with fallacies and blatant lies but also included a proposition to reduce the currently accredited core classes to elective status. This move would only be a slow and drawn-out way of killing the program. Students are required to take a high number of core requirements to graduate; they simply would not have the space left to fit two history or two literature classes in their academic schedules. It is also impossible to deny the hidden undertones of racism in this move when AP European History will still count as a core class meeting graduation requirements and Mexican-American History will not.
The only reason to dismantle this program is politics, not education.
Please join us to keep our Ethnic Studies as accredited core classes and tell the TUSD governing board to vote ‘No’ on Dr. Stegeman’s proposal to reduce the classes down to electives. The vote is rescheduled for this upcoming school board meeting on May 3, 2011.