What is the current status of the AZ Department of Education’s investigation based on Attorney General Tom Horne’s finding that Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) is in violation of the so-called “ethnic studies” law?
A March 9, 2011 letter from J. Elliott Hibbs, Chief Operations Officer of the Arizona State Dept. of Education to TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone states that the investigation by a recently engaged “national company specializing in research based education solutions” will take 4-6 weeks. Hibbs goes on to state that “the current cure period set to expire on April 18, 2011 must necessarily be extended until after the investigation has been completed and the issuance of an amended notice of violation or a notification that the investigation has revealed full compliance with A.R.S. §15-112.”
And Hibbs states in his final paragraph the ‘Department agrees that it will not withhold 10% of the monthly state aid apportionment until after a final agency decision is issued after an administrative hearing, should one be necessary.”
Text of entire letter by Hibbs:
Dear Dr. Pedicone;
Thank you for your February 15, 2011 letter in which you confirm your commitment to cooperating fully with the Arizona Department of Education’s investigation into your district’s Mexican-American Studies program and to complying with the requirements of A.R.S. § 15-112. I appreciate your efforts to be responsive. We recently engaged a national company specializing in research-based education solutions to conduct the investigation. We will be contacting you shortly in order to facilitate their information gathering.
In general, we anticipate the investigation will take approximately 4-6 weeks, culminating in a comprehensive, written report to the Department of Education. Upon receipt of the investigative results, we will review the report and draw our conclusions concerning the district’s compliance with A.R.S. §15-112. If at that point we conclude the district remains out of compliance, we expect to issue an amended notice of violation. That notice of violation will be as detailed as possible in order to afford you and your administration a clear idea of what classes or courses violate A.R,S, §15-1l2 and in what manner they do so. Of course, the issuance of an amended notice of violation would signal the start of another 60-day cure period. In such event, we plan to ask the district to make modifications, if it desires to do so and then respond in writing, detailing the modifications made to comply with A.R.S, §15-112.
I understand your concern about the promotion and graduation of students currently enrolled in Mexican-American Studies courses. As outlined above, the current cure period set to expire an April 18, 2011 must necessarily be extended until the after the investigation has been completed and the issuance of an amended notice of violation or a notification that the investigation has revealed full compliance with A.R.S. §15-112. If the district is in compliance, no further action is necessary. If an amended notice is issues as noted above, another 60-day period would begin. Furthermore, the the Department agrees that it will not withhold 10% of the monthly state aid apportionment until after a final agency decision is issued after an administrative hearing, should one be necessary.
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
And here’s the text of Arizona Revised Statutes 15-112, the so-called “ethnic studies” law passed last year by the Arizona legislature:
15-112. Prohibited courses and classes; enforcement
“A. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:
1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
And the law goes on to state:
“E. This section shall not be construed to restrict or prohibit:
1. Courses or classes for Native American pupils that are required to comply with federal law.
2. The grouping of pupils according to academic performance, including capability in the English language, that may result in a disparate impact by ethnicity.
3. Courses or classes that include the history of any ethnic group and that are open to all students, unless the course or class violates subsection A.
4. Courses or classes that include the discussion of controversial aspects of history.
F. Nothing in this section shall be construed to restrict or prohibit the instruction of the holocaust, any other instance of genocide, or the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race, or class.”
You can see that various of these sections are open to interpretation by administrators, teachers, and attorneys such as “disparate impact on ethnicity” and “ethnic solidarity.” It sounds like classes for Native Americans or ESL (English as a 2nd Language) are permissible. And that last sentence “historical oppression of a particular group of people based on ethnicity, race…” hopefully includes Black American slaves.
Nowhere does this language specifically target Mexican American studies or Raza Studies. And isn’t Raza Studies “courses or classes that include the history of any ethnic group and that are open to all students” (and thereby permissible under E3?)
And note that such courses can include “discussion of controversial aspects of history” per E4.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction for 8 years (now Arizona Attorney General) Tom Horne found Tucson Unified School District to be in noncompliance on December 30, 2010:
Tucson Unified School District (“District”) has four courses under the heading of Ethnic Studies. Three of the four programs could be found in violation under criterion three, courses designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. However, all of the complaints received by the Superintendent of Public Instruction have been as to one of those programs: Mexican American Studies, previously known as Raza/Mexican American Studies. Therefore, this finding is as to that program alone.
His conclusion (of a 10 page Findings):
The Superintendent of Schools finds that the Tucson Unified School District is in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112 and A.R.S. § 15-843, and, pursuant to those statutes, the school district has 60 days to eliminate the Mexican American Studies courses, however they are named, and has 90 days to eliminate the race-based discipline rules. Failure to comply within those time periods will subject the Tucson Unified School District to having 10 percent of its budget withheld.
Read the entire text of Horne’s Findings here. Although ARS 15-112 concerned all “ethnic studies” courses, AG Horne only found alleged violations in the Mexican-American studies courses at TUSD (which is now the focus of the ongoing investigation). Questions at this point would be as to the credentials and background of this “national company specializing in research-based education solutions”, and the extent of their investigation.
So stay tuned for the results of the investigation by this outside company, and whether a violation by TUSD of this law will be found. And if any violation is found, TUSD would have to outline their modification methods to “cure” the alleged
UPDATE: The name of the national company doing the investigation is Cambium Learning Group, in Dallas Texas, www.cambiumlearning.com, toll free # 1-888-399-1995.