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Candidate commentary

Ragan: TUSD's MAS classes not a 'political football'

On Sunday of this week, two of our sitting Tucson Unified School District Governing Board members offered head-to-head opinion pieces in the Arizona Daily Star about Mexican American Studies. These pieces sprang about from the Governing Board's failed attempt the week prior to reintegrate aspects of MAS after Judge Tashima ruled ARS 15-112 unconstitutional.

On this part, there can be no alternative facts, as some might push. Banning MAS runs counter to the Constitution. One of those opinion pieces acknowledges this. The other, on face value, champions ethnic studies while, in coded language, simultaneously tells the Tucson community that MAS is DOA, if only because it's a "political football." In order to try to placate everyone and anyone, this board member has only cast aspersions on her abilities to serve the greater Tucson community.

I can only surmise that particular board member is laboring under a misunderstanding of her sworn duty to this district and our state to uphold the laws of the land. The courts have spoken. Now is the time for TUSD to reintegrate, through the normal materials and curricula review process, those items that facilitate the teaching of CRCs/MAS. This isn't a point of debate. TUSD is under a decades-old federal desegregation order. We must offer these courses. During her campaign — and from the dais since elected — this board member has repeatedly stated she's for ethnic studies, even if her understanding of desegregation funding appears murky at best. Yet, when given a chance to show the community her support, she raises strong objections, stating there are people on both sides and both should be given equal consideration. That's making a political football out of MAS and, quite frankly, our district.

In her describing MAS as a "political football," this board member went on later to say we have to respect both sides of the political debate because both sides are equally right.

No, this educator calls her bluff. In football, you have a couple of options with the ball. You can punt; you can pass; you can receive and run for yardage; or you can fumble.

This analogy doesn't extend to our Governing Board. The voters select Board Members to make hard decisions and put the interests of our students first. There's no pass; there's no punt; there's no fumble. There is no football game here. The only goal to be scored is the education of our students. This is good governance. And good governance starts and ends with our students and our teachers, educational support professionals, and community. It starts by refusing to placate both sides of any argument rather than showing strong leadership and doing what the science and the courts say we need to do.

There's no obfuscating who I am or what my position is. I am a candidate for the TUSD school board. I am an unreserved supporter of Culturally Relevant Curricula, including MAS. I am an educator who cares about closing the achievement gap, not only in my students, but in all of our students. CRC, and MAS in particular, have shown great potential to not only instruct in course content, but to provide our students with a sense of belonging in their greater school community.

For those of us who have to motivate students for their holistic education, we know that courses that engage them in meaningful ways help bolster the students in classes outside those courses.

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Put another way: MAS gives students the confidence to be great in all their courses. In turn, they get a full education ready for college or career. And they do it right here in Tucson. No student in TUSD should ever be a political football. By refusing to take steps to bring about curricula that we know works, this board member has, indeed, turned our students and our district into a football.

MAS is an education issue facing Arizona's second-largest district. Judge Tashima's ruling isn't a matter of interpretation. ARS 15-112 is unconstitutional. The data support that MAS and other CRCs lower the achievement gap in students. Getting our district to unitary status must be a top priority for our Governing Board. How can we ensure we not only lower — but close outright — the achievement gap far too many of our students face. We have an answer here: MAS and CRC are two ways that we can achieve that. Our district staff — especially our teachers — need to know the Governing Board has heard the federal court and is taking steps to bring back curricula that work.

Adam Ragan is an educator and a community leader. He is running for TUSD Governing Board in the 2018 election. He can be reached at adam@adamraganforTUSD.com.

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