New ethnic-studies plan causes TUSD board split

Proposal would shift some Mexican American courses to elective status
2011-04-25T00:00:00Z New ethnic-studies plan causes TUSD board splitAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 25, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Some Mexican American Studies courses would no longer be used to satisfy core-curriculum requirements under a resolution expected to be presented Tuesday to the TUSD Governing Board president.

The resolution, written by President Mark Stegeman, has created a division among board members over a program that already has garnered the attention of state lawmakers.

Two members - Judy Burns and Adelita Grijalva - have said they won't support it and say the timing for its introduction is bad considering that the Arizona Department of Education is scrutinizing the program to determine if it complies with state law.

Board member Michael Hicks has never been a proponent of the courses' being part of the core curriculum, so he intends to back Stegeman's resolution.

Member Miguel Cuevas says he hasn't decided.

Though it's been argued that a structural change like the one Stegeman is pushing would kill the program, Stegeman said that's not his intention.

"What's very important to me is that the traditional core social-studies classes do not provide adequate coverage of alternative viewpoints," Stegeman said.

His goal in bringing the resolution forward is to strengthen those classes by adding a significant component that focuses on the contributions and viewpoints of Mexican Americans and other ethnic minorities, he said.

Conversely, Stegeman also is concerned that some Mexican American social-studies courses do not provide adequate coverage of core topics required by the state.

The program's courses are in line with state standards, Mexican American Studies program Director Sean Arce argues.

Arce says he's concerned about turning the courses into electives because fewer students would have any incentive to take them.

"The content stands as a legitimate form of knowledge and legitimate American history," Arce said. "More importantly, the graduation outcomes and AIMS outcomes for these particular students point to the efficacy of the program."

Burns agreed, saying students already have their days filled with required courses. "They don't have time in the day to take more classes, let alone double up on history."

Though Stegeman admits there will likely be a decline in enrollment as a result, he doesn't see it as the demise of the program.

"We've heard from all kinds of students how wonderful these courses are," Stegeman said. "If the students believe that to be true, those who really are getting something out of it will choose to take it."

If the resolution is adopted, it wouldn't affect students who already have taken Mexican American social studies courses for core credit.

There is a possibility that Mexican American Studies literature courses could continue to satisfy the state's core English requirement.

In the resolution, Stegeman said there is value to the courses, saying they have increased students' motivation to succeed.

And he said the proposal has little to do with the state law.

"There is nothing in this resolution about the courses causing ethnic resentment or anything to indicate that we are in violation of the law," Stegeman said. "What this is about is that the program is not set up optimally, and I believe that we would have gotten to this sooner or later. I think these reforms make sense."

However, Stegeman did say that the resolution is partially driven by the state investigation in an indirect way: The district may be in a stronger position if it can show that it adopted comprehensive reform on its own.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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