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Rocio Hernandez / KJZZTeachers and educators gathered at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, May…
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(CNN) –Arizona Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal has called on the District of Tucson to stop teaching its controversial Mexican-American Studies program or lose $ 15 million in annual state aid under of a new law, he said on Tuesday.
Huppenthal told CNN he supports this week’s decision by quitting state superintendent Tom Horne, giving the state’s second-largest district 60 days to comply with a new 2011 law banning certain programs ethnic studies in public schools.
Horne is now Arizona’s new attorney general, and Huppenthal was sworn in as the newly elected Arizona school principal on Monday. Both men are Republicans.
The new schools law is the latest controversy in a state already shaken by an immigration crackdown, known as SB 1070, which is being challenged on constitutional grounds in federal court. The Arizona-Mexico border is considered the busiest in the country for illegal immigration.
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Adelita Grijalva, a member of the Tucson school board, accused the new law of failing to ensure due process and being unconstitutional. She said the new law was part of an anti-immigrant political climate in Arizona State House. She and Huppenthal said they expected the new law to end up in court as well.
“People of color in the state of Arizona are under attack,” Grijalva told CNN. “We’re basically going from battle to battle.”
The law authorizes the state superintendent to stop all ethnic studies courses that promote the overthrow of the US government, promote resentment towards a race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.
In findings written Monday, Horne said the Tucson program violated all four criteria.
Huppenthal said Tucson’s curriculum is “a flagrant violation” of the new law because it is designed for students of a particular ethnic group.
Tucson educators who challenged the constitutionality of the new law in court defended the Mexican-American curriculum as no different from African-American or Native American studies courses.
Grijalva added, “What we’re doing is teaching a history class with a Mexican-American perspective. I don’t understand what’s so scary about this concept.”
Huppenthal, who served as a state legislator for 18 years and served as chairman of the Arizona Senate Education Committee, said he was serious about enforcing a $ 15 million penalty. dollars a year that both sides say would devastate Tucson’s schools if the district doesn’t. terminate the ethnic studies program.
The penalty represents 10% of state aid to the Tucson system, which has a total operating budget of $ 450 million per year, officials said.
“Make no doubt about it. They should have no illusions about this thing,” Huppenthal told CNN. “We will move forward. These are serious issues.”
The Tucson Unified School District board told the state in a letter that it would “support” the classes, which it said is consistent with the new law.
“The TUSD administration supports its ethnic studies programs, and we are encouraged by the real and lasting impact these programs have for all TUSD students,” the letter said, according to the council’s website.
Also on Monday, Tucson Superintendent John Pedicone told administrators and employees he would not tolerate any student walkouts to protest the state superintendent’s actions.
Pedicone also encouraged principals to organize a time in the school gymnasium for students to “express their point of view and discuss the pros and cons of the new law in a constructive way,” he said in a letter posted on the system’s website.
“If a student leaves campus to participate in a protest or walkout, there will be consequences in accordance with school procedure and board policy,” said Pedicone.
Huppenthal said he observed one of Tucson’s ethnic studies classes last year.
“When I walked into a classroom they were describing Ben Franklin as a racist,” Huppenthal said. “Ben Franklin was the president of the Abolitionist Society in Pennsylvania. … So they defame Ben Franklin in that classroom, and on the wall they have a poster of Che Guevara, and the historical record is that he has helped run the Communist death camps in Cuba by killing numerous dissidents.
“We just have a lot of worries about the course,” Huppenthal said.
Huppenthal said he would broaden his public debate on the Tucson District to include the fact that some public schools in Tucson, especially those serving low-income minority students, are among the worst in the country. He said he was planning a new accountability system measuring the performance of each school district.
“When we do our rankings and compare the data, a number of schools in the Tucson Unified School District are in the bottom three in the country,” Huppenthal said.
“In their failure to serve these children academically, we see the same failure in their response to community concerns about these (ethnic studies) classes,” Huppenthal added. “I’m a fan of Ronald Reagan and he relied primarily on persuasion. I want to use the energy associated with this issue to get the Tucson Unified School District to examine itself.”
The Tucson Ethnic Studies program, established in 1998 and initially called “Mexican American / Raza Studies”, has been effective in reducing dropout rates among Latino students, as well as disciplinary issues, low rates of attendance and failure, teachers said.
In October, 11 teachers in Tucson sued the state board of education and the superintendent over the new law, calling it an “anti-Hispanic” ban on Mexican-American studies.