TUSD board to talk reintroduction of Mexican-American Studies at meeting

TUSD board to talk reintroduction of Mexican-American Studies at meeting
TUSD board to talk reintroduction of Mexican-American Studies at meeting

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) governing board is taking one more step towards reinstating a once-illegal program.

The first sigh of relief came from board member Kristel Ann Foster on August 22, 2017. That's the day a roughly seven-year curriculum war came to an end.

In 2010, the state of Arizona decided that the Mexican-American Studies curriculum should be banned. The law instituted a $15 million fine if the district did not shut it down.

A federal judge ruled in August 2017 that the Arizona law banning Mexican-American Studies was unconstitutional.

We're nearly five months removed from the ruling, and the TUSD board will start talking about what's next.

On the agenda at Tuesday's meeting, the TUSD board will discuss changes to the Mexican-American Studies program for the first time.

In September, the board put the item on the agenda but held off on any plans to move forward.

The program's road to recovery has been slow-moving. Foster said there are challenges.

For one, teachers that were well-versed in the subject matter are no longer employees of the district.

"We were ahead of the game at one point and unfortunately now we've totally regressed," said former Tucson High School teacher Curtis Acosta, talking to Tucson News Now in August 2017.

Foster knows they can't bring teachers like Acosta back and the state law didn't make educator's lives easy.

"The state was always looking over their shoulder. They had to turn in lesson plans weekly. Their classrooms would be open, at the d rop of a hat, for the state to stop in and that's an incredible amount of pressure on any professional," she said.

Now, that pressure is gone.

"We've been between a rock - a good rock in the federal mandate from the desegregation order - and a hard place. That hard place being this law. So we've had federal protection that we do need to offer culturally relevant critical pedagogy - ethnic studies - for our students. So we were able to craft and maintain that kind of education. But we were always under the lens from the state of Arizona, and honestly, to catch us if they politically needed to. If somebody wanted to find us out of compliance that law always allowed a politician to use us and use our kids," Foster said.

Foster knows that things could change in an election year, and that's also a challenge, but wants to keep the kids out of it.

"It always ignited both sides. I hope our students and our teachers don't get caught in the crossfire again," Foster said.

Tuesday's agenda item was submitted by Foster and board member Adelita Grijalva as the, "Re-Integration of Mexican American Studies Back into Tucson Unified School District."

The public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Duffy Community Center, 5145 E. 5th Street.

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