When the Tucson Unified School District governing board meets tonight it could mean several possibilities, including an expected vote to not appeal state Superintendent John Huppenthal's recent ruling on Friday, Jan. 6 that the district's Mexican American Studies classes are illegal. If the district appeals it would force the state to take their case before a Superior Court judge and prevent Huppenthal from financially penalizing the district withholding more than $10 million in state aid.
But if a majority of board members vote against an appeal and begin the process of dismantling the current Mexican American Studies program, some wonder if the district will be in violation of a federal desegregation order and the district's own 2009 Post-Unitarian Status plan approved by court.
Sylvia Campoy, a former TUSD teacher, school board member and director of the city of Tucson's Equal Opportunity Program, has been involved in the TUSD desegregation litigation for more than 30 years and now represents the Mendoza plaintiff's at TUSD desegregation meetings, told the Range that she plans to speak at tonight's meeting to remind the governing board that yes, if indeed they choose not to appeal Huppenthal's ruling, they could be violating the district's federal court-approved deseg plan....
By MARC LACEY
January 7, 2011
TUCSON — The class began with a Mayan-inspired chant and a vigorous round of coordinated hand clapping. The classroom walls featured protest signs, including one that said “United Together in La Lucha!” — the struggle. Although open to any student at Tucson High Magnet School, nearly all of those attending Curtis Acosta’s Latino literature class on a recent morning were Mexican-American.
For all of that and more, Mr. Acosta’s class and others in the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American program have been declared illegal by the State of Arizona — even while similar programs for black, Asian and American Indian students have been left untouched.
“It’s propagandizing and brainwashing that’s going on there,” Tom Horne, Arizona’s newly elected attorney general, said this week as he officially declared the program in violation of a state law that went into effect on Jan. 1.
Although Shakespeare’s “Tempest” was supposed to be the topic at hand, Mr. Acosta spent most of a recent class discussing the political storm in which he, his students and the entire district have become enmeshed. Mr. Horne’s name came up more than once, and not in a flattering light. It was Mr. Horne, as the state’s superintendent of public instruction, who wrote a law aimed at challenging Tucson’s ethnic-studies program. The Legislature passed the measure last spring, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law in May amid the fierce protests raging over the state’s immigration crackdown.
For the state, the issue is not so much “The Tempest” as some of the other texts used in the classes, among them, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and “Occupied America,” which Mr. Horne said inappropriately teach Latino youths that they are being mistreated.
Teaching methods in the classes are sometimes unconventional, with instructors scrutinizing hip-hop lyrics and sprinkling their lessons with Spanish words.
The state, which includes some Mexican-American studies in its official curriculum, sees the classes as less about educating students than creating future activists.
In Mr. Acosta’s literature class, students were clearly concerned. They asked if their graduation was at risk. They asked if they were considered terrorists because Mr. Horne described them as wanting to topple the government. They asked how they could protest the decision.
Then, one young woman asked Mr. Acosta how he was holding up. “They wrote a state law to snuff this program out, just us little Chicanitos,” he said, wiping away tears. “The idea of losing this is emotional.” [...]
Holder: Voting rights under attack in states
Mcclatchy Newspapers Mcclatchy Newspapers | Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:00 am (azstarnet.com)
In his bluntest comments to date, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that voting rights, particularly for minorities, are under assault in some states.
Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday event in Columbia, Holder said some states had sued to challenge provisions of the Voting Rights Act and had approved new laws that would make it difficult for some minorities to register and vote this year, five decades after King and other civil rights leaders fought for access to the ballot box.
"Each of these lawsuits claims that we've attained a new era of electoral equality, that America in 2012 has moved beyond the challenges of 1965," Holder told hundreds who gathered outside the domed Capitol. "I wish that were the case. But the reality is that - in jurisdictions across the country - both overt and subtle forms of discrimination remain all too common." [...] Holder's comments come nearly four weeks after the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division ruled that South Carolina's voter identification law was discriminatory because it would make voting harder for minorities, who lack sufficient forms of government-approved ID more often than whites do. Justice Department officials weighed in on the law under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires approval of proposed voting-law changes in 16 mostly Southern states because they have histories of discrimination. Arizona is one of those states....
2 AZ bills would allow Bible class in schools (azstarnet.com)
Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:00 am
A Republican lawmaker from Tucson wants to allow the Bible to be taught as an elective in high school. State Rep. Terri Proud said the concept is gaining support among her colleagues in the House.
Current state law states that a teacher who uses sectarian or denominational books, or who teaches any sectarian doctrine in school, is guilty of unprofessional conduct and may have his or her license revoked.
Proud said HB 2563 and HB 2473 aren't about bringing church in the classroom, but aim to familiarize students with the way biblical references impact literature, art, music and public policy. Proud said that in her discussions with teachers as a member of the House Education Committee, she's heard from many who are fearful of even mentioning God or the Bible in the classroom.
Tucson Unified School District Superintendent John Pedicone said it strikes him as an unnecessary bill. The Bible in its historical context is already addressed in various courses as it becomes relevant, he said, and there's also nothing in law now that expressly prohibits a teacher from talking about it. "I suppose it could give it more of a focus and make sure people understand that, but I'm not sure that's the reason we pass laws. I don't think it belongs in legislation," he said
But Proud said that, while she agrees that there's nothing in law now that prohibits teaching about the Bible, the fear of getting in trouble for it hamstrings teachers. Biblical references are rife throughout Shakespeare's works, she said, and it would be nearly impossible to teach an art-history class and discuss Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" without having the appropriate religious context.
That makes some degree of sense to Tucson Democratic lawmaker Steve Farley. "If a student is reading Shakespeare and doesn't understand biblical sources, they aren't going to get as much out of it," Farley said, adding that he would encourage students to have some foundational knowledge of the Quran as well.
But Proud said she has no intention of adding the Quran to the mix. "The Quran hasn't influenced Western culture the way the Bible has," she said, noting students already learn about some ancient religions, including Greek and Roman gods, in their coursework.....
Apparently, Representative Proud has never heard of Arabic numbers. Which would explain a lot, really. But I digress, already.
So, let me get this straight-ish:
Arizona wants to make teaching the Bible a requirement, which would be illegal under both state and federal law.
In the meantime, they have stripped Tucson of a particular Mexican American literature class, despite being under federal orders to expand the Mexican American studies department specifically at the middle and high school levels. A law rather clearly aimed at that one class, but having broader effects for the entire school district.
I am mildly, if only mildly, surprised that Tucson chose not to challenge the ruling. I mean, on the one hand, we're talking about Arizona, land of consent decrees (two, even!), Arpaio, and an unspeakable "driving while Hispanic" law that the courts have so far not looked favorably on. 'Nuff said, really. On the other hand, the existence of those two consent decrees means that Tucson had to know that it won't be long before this decision itself gets challenged in court, both by affected students as a class and by the federal government, which will not be well pleased at having Tucson abrogate its part in the agreement. Why wouldn't you put yourself on the side of the requirements you're supposed to be meeting, and challenge that way? I suppose there's some rhetorical advantage to be gained by saying some of the more ... vocal, shall we say, constituents, "Look, we didn't want to reinstate these courses! The feds made us do it! We're the victims of a nondiscriminatory federal bureaucracy and out-of-control judiciary! Us! We're the victims here!"
On the other hand ... despite their best efforts, Arizona is becoming more Hispanic. More slowly than before, of course -- a state that has demonstrated an unseemly aggression and glee in legislating against its Hispanic minority is not a place that most sane Hispanic peoples would choose to move to. On the other hand, more and more are simply being born there. Arizona can slow down the demographic change, but not prevent it. And things like this: they will be remembered.Posted by iain at January 17, 2012 12:48 PM