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Brewer signs bill banning TUSD ethnic studies classes

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Brewer signs bill banning TUSD ethnic studies classes

A bill banning ethnic studies classes in Arizona was signed Tuesday by Gov. Jan Brewer. The law, which takes effective Dec. 31, was pushed by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a longtime critic of such classes in TUSD.

HB 2281 bans classes that promote “the overthrow of the United States government,” “resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

According to Politico, "neither the governor nor the bill’s supporters have identified examples where a Chicano studies class has advocated the “overthrow” of the federal government, and the bill’s opponents in the state have expressed outrage over what they see as a law that unfairly targets Hispanics."

Horne has said the new law is targeted at the ethnic studies program in Tucson schools.

Horne, a Republican, is stepping down from his Arizona school chief post to run for state attorney general.

The LA Times reports that TUSD isn't planning on ending the program:

Tucson Unified School District officials say the Chicano studies classes benefit students and promote critical thinking. "We don't teach all those ugly things they think we're teaching," said Judy Burns, the president of the district's governing board.

She has no intention of ending the program, which offers courses from elementary school through high school in topics such as literature, history and social justice, with an emphasis on Latino authors and history. About 3% of the district's 55,000 students are enrolled in such classes.

Horne has been trying to end the program for years, saying it divides students by race and promotes resentment. He singled out one history book used in some classes, "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos," by Rodolfo Acuna, a professor and founder of the Chicano studies program at Cal State Northridge.

"To begin with, the title of the book implies to the kids that they live in occupied America, or occupied Mexico," Horne said last week in a telephone interview.

The bill also amends Arizona law to prohibit  basing student discipline on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry.

Districts violating the law can have 10 percent of their state funding withheld.

What's your take?

Should TUSD offer ethnic studies classes? Should ethnic studies classes count towards graduation requirements? Should the state dictate what classes local districts teach?

Disclosure: Dylan Smith’s wife is a teacher in the Tucson Unified School District.

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