Mary Beth Faller, AZ Central, January 2, 2015
On his last day in office, John Huppenthal sent a letter to the Tucson Unified School District threatening to cut its state funding over ethnic-studies classes.
Huppenthal, the outgoing state superintendent of public instruction, on Friday sent a “notice of non-compliance” to the district, accusing it of violating a 2012 agreement over classes that cover Mexican-American heritage.
The order threatens to withhold 10 percent of Tucson’s state funding if administrators don’t comply with orders to provide more information on the history classes and to remove parts of the curriculum that Huppenthal says violate state law by March 4.
The issue dates back to 2011, when a state law went into effect prohibiting districts and charter schools from offering classes that promote overthrowing the U.S. government, promote resentment for a certain race or class of people, are geared for students of a particular ethnic background, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of recognizing students as individuals. In 2013, a federal court upheld the law.
In 2012, Tucson dropped the courses under threat of losing state funding and agreed to submit a revised curriculum to the state Department of Education, which Huppenthal says has been insufficient.
Huppenthal’s letter says: “Notably, while TUSD’s original violations related to classes taught from the Mexican American perspective, it now appears that some TUSD classes taught from the African-American perspective also violate the law.”
H.T. Sanchez, superintendent of the Tucson district, released a statement Friday afternoon saying that he asked to meet with Huppenthal, but “so far that hasn’t happened.”
Sanchez said that Tucson is bound by a federal desegregation order to offer the classes.
In his letter, Huppenthal cites several examples that he says violates the state law, including a writing prompt in which students are asked to discuss three ideas in the Declaration of Independence that are “lies, hypocrisy and break the social contract between new democracy and the society they are representing.”