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.
By approving the reduction of TUSD’s Ethnic Studies classes from accredited core classes to an elective status you are only condoning the dismantling of an academically successful program that enriches the lives and educational experience of the students who take these courses. It will be impossible for the program to continue because students, who are required to take a high number of core required classes to graduate, will simply not have the space left for two history or two literature courses in their academic schedules.
By reducing the classes down to electives you are also sending a message to not only the Tucson community, but the entire nation, that the many culturally diverse attributions and perspectives of US history and literature are not ‘valid enough’ to count as a core credit needed to graduate.
I urge you today to stand up for the students’ rights to access their cultural history in education and to not be influenced by the Arizona legislature that acted with heavy sentiments of xenophobia and racism with last year’s passing of HB 2281 on May 11, 2010; only a few weeks after the signing of SB 1070.
Vote ‘No’ on the reduction of Ethnic Studies classes to elective status this upcoming school board meeting on May 3, 2011.