New resolution could make it easier to study ethnic studies in Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Pima County Board of Supervisors will discuss and potentially vote on a new resolution concerning ethnic studies.

The one-page resolution traces the background of the issues facing Mexican-American Ethnic Studies in Arizona and calls them "political assaults."

Read it HERE: tucsonne.ws/1V5xo6z

The Arizona state legislature passed House Bill 2281 in 2013 to ban ethnic studies in the Tucson Unified School District.

The decision came after three years of contentious debate and protests which soured some on the entire concept of ethnic studies in Arizona.

"Well, there have been political assaults on ethnic studies," District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias said. "It's the only state in the United States where it's against the law."

"Without a doubt, I think they've suffered a black eye," said Anna Ochoa O'Leary, department chair of the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Arizona.

The county resolution, if passed, will show support for an Ethnic Studies Articulation Task Force to be established statewide in June.

It will be the job of the task force to make it easier for students who want to major in ethnic studies to transfer their credits from community colleges to the state's three public universities.

Right now, students who take classes at Pima Community College, for example, may find they do not transfer to the university system.

The only alternative to pursue a Bachelor's degree is to take those same courses again at a higher level.

With the increasing cost of college, "it can be very expensive," O'Leary said.

But it can also discourage minorities from seeking a degree.

More than half the students at PCC are Latino, but that d rops to 12 percent at the University of Arizona.

Whether or not the disparity may be attributed to transferable credits is up for debate, but some of it may be.

Nearly all other programs transfer credits seamlessly.

O'Leary said that ethnic studies programs are popping up all over the country at universities and even high schools, but not just Mexican-American studies, the target of the state legislature.

"It includes Asian-Americans, African-Americans, American-Indian studies, Chicano Studies, Mexican-American studies, LGBT studies," O'Leary said.

So even though Arizona has passed a law, the programs will likely spring up in the state in some form and this prepares for that to happen.

While the resolution may not promote Mexican-American ethnic studies to reappear in high schools, it helps pave the way for the transitions.

"This is about community college students to make sure the classes they take transfer over to our three state universities," Elias said. "That's all this is."

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