It is beyond outrageous that State Superintendent John Huppenthal - an elected state official - would distort critical facts regarding the Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies program.
On Wednesday, Huppenthal held a news conference announcing that the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American Studies program is out of compliance with HB 2281, asserting that it is designed for pupils of a particular race, promotes ethnic solidarity and fosters resentment to other races.
Huppenthal defied the findings of the audit he himself ordered that cost taxpayers $170,000. Huppenthal distorted the facts. According to the audit:
• "A majority of evidence demonstrates that the Mexican American Studies Department's instruction is not designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. As previously indicated, every current course syllabus states: 'At the core of this course is the idea that all people should not be required to give up their ethnic and cultural traditions in order to become part of mainstream society.'" - Page 59
• "No evidence as seen by the auditors exists to indicate that instruction within Mexican American Studies Department program classes advocates ethnic solidarity; rather it has been proven to treat student as individuals." - Page 63
• "No observable evidence exists that instruction within Mexican American Studies Department promotes resentment toward a race or class of people. The auditors observed the opposite, as students are taught to be accepting of multiple ethnicities of people." - Page 55
So why did Huppenthal distort the audit findings? Clearly, the audit did not fit into his political agenda.
This is not "about education" or ensuring that "every student has access to excellent education," as he claims.
The hypocrisy and doublespeak coming from our own superintendent of all Arizona schools is astounding. In a state that continuously ranks among the worst for educational funding in the nation, and with over 50 percent of Latino students failing to graduate nationwide, why would Huppenthal attempt to dismantle a program proven to be successful? The MAS program graduates 93 percent of its college-bound students.
As UNIDOS Youth Coalition, we do not consider Huppenthal's decision to be valid. Our education should never be politicized. We question any person in power who makes decisions that negatively impact his or her constituents.
Huppenthal should explain the inconsistencies and lack of transparency in how, we believe, he misrepresented the audit's findings.
Furthermore, as TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone has said, the district believes it operates in compliance with the ethnic studies law. The Governing Board will meet in executive session tonight to receive legal advice about the district's options in response to Huppenthal's decision.
Therefore, we demand that the TUSD Governing Board and Pedicone immediately appeal Huppenthal's finding, and pursue any and all legal recourse to fully defend the MAS department. Ultimately, the fate of the program rests in the hands of the TUSD Governing Board.
Huppenthal and the state may attempt to destroy our classes through discriminatory political distortions, but they can never lock us out of our education, history and culture.
As the UNIDOS Youth Coalition, we will continue organizing for social justice.
Huppenthal's political position is temporary, but our movement for human and civil rights will continue to flourish until our community bears witness to a society based on the values of social justice, equality and respect for all of humanity.
Asiya Mir is a MAS student at Tucson High Magnet School; she and Ryan Velasquez are UNIDOS youth organizers.