A controversial Arizona law targeting ethnic studies in public schools will take effect come midnight.
The law bans classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government and resentment toward a race or class of people. Also outlawed are courses designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group and those that advocate ethnic solidarity rather than treat students as individuals.
In Arizona, critics claim that the law–along with the partially suspended immigration law–threatens to make the state a “new South” of discrimination against minorities.
For his part, Tom Horne, the force behind the Arizona law, says ethnic studies serve to divide rather than unite. “Fundamentally, I think it’s wrong to divide students by race,” says Mr. Horne, the outgoing Arizona schools superintendent, who was elected state attorney general in November.
The program teaches “one-sided propaganda” and is inconsistent with American values, he adds
Horne helped draft the law in response to complaints about a program that teaches Mexican-American history and culture in the Tucson Unified School District, the city’s largest with more than 50,000 students. He plans to announce Monday the district is in violation of the law. It will be his last day in that office.
District defends program
Despite the risk of losing state funds, the district plans to keep its program. Officials believe it is in compliance with the law. “The law was created listing the things that a course of studies cannot do, and the district’s position all along has been that this course of studies does not do that,” says Pedicone.
Once Horne declares the district is breaking the new law, school officials have 60 days to present evidence of compliance at a hearing, Pedicone says. The ultimate decision rests with Horne’s successor, John Huppenthal, a Republican senator from the Phoenix area who also has been critical of ethnic studies both at the Tucson district and at the University of Arizona.