Ethnic studies funding threat remains for TUSD but new state cooperation expected

Ethnic studies funding threat remains for TUSD but new state cooperation expected

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There's new hope Tucson Unified School District can avoid a problem over its culturally relevant curriculum, which was formerly known as ethnic studies classes. But the state is not backing off on requiring compliance with a controversial law.

"I walked into many things I didn't initiate but yet I had to follow through with and she's in that situation and we want to do our best to build a partnership," said TUSD superintendent H.T. Sanchez Wednesday afternoon after meeting with the new state schools superintendent Diane Douglas.

Four years ago TUSD ended its ethnic studies program after the state passed a law threatening to withhold ten percent of its funding if it didn't. The state said the classes promoted one race over another and overthrow of the government.

Creators and supporters of the program have disagreed with this. "Culturally relevant curriculum" returned for a variety of ethnicities including Mexican American and African American courses. These were built into the district's federal desegregation plan.

The state has been monitoring the classes. The outgoing state education superintendent John Huppenthal said last week some African American courses violate the law, and TUSD could lose funding in 60 days if it doesn't make changes.

While new state superintendent Diane Douglas did not take back the finding, TUSD seemed hopeful both sides can cooperate.

"We have to work with our superintendent and work with our teachers, and work with the state, and we've been doing that," said TUSD governing board member Kristel Ann Foster.

"I'm looking at it simply as a discipline. I really think that there is no place for such a so-called law," said University of Arizona Mexican American Studies professor Roberto Rodriguez.

Another hopeful sign for the district was Douglas invited Sanchez to help develop standards that recognize the contributions of Latinos in Arizona and the United States and to include that as part of the Arizona College and Career Readiness standards.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.