Tom Horne and John Huppenthal's Ethnic Studies War: Fate of MAS in Federal Judge's Hands, Yet Again
Will the anti-Mexican machinations of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and state schools Superintendent John Huppenthal be thwarted, at long last, by a federal judge?
They certainly could be, given the details of a desegregation plan for the Tucson Unified School District pending in federal court, part of which calls for the development of "socially and culturally relevant curriculum, including courses of instruction centered on the experiences and perspectives of African American and Latino communities."
The so-called "proposed Unitary Status Plan" is the offspring of a federal civil rights case stretching back nearly four decades, Fisher, et al v. Tucson Unified, et al. In January, Judge David C. Bury ordered the appointment of a "special master" in the case, who developed the USP with significant input from the community.
If implemented, the USP is a disaster for Horne and Huppenthal, the primary pimps of House Bill 2281, the anti-ethnic studies law, specifically crafted to crush TUSD's MAS program, a bugbear of far-right Mexican-haters in this state.
(Note: That language was the subject of a confusing Tuesday vote of the Tucson Unified School District's governing board, now a point of contention between the various factions involved. More on that further down.)
Indeed, to peruse Horne's hysterical amicus objection to the USP, filed with the court at the end of November, you'd think the mere reading of the proposal had set Horne's hair on fire, and Carmen Chenal's coal-black-dyed locks along with it.
Horne tells the court that its requirements concerning this new curriculum "will violate Arizona law, promote segregation, and prompt the return of the discredited Mexican-American Studies (MAS) Program."
The AG further admonishes Judge Bury that, "no authority allows a federal court to disregard this Arizona law."
Maybe they didn't cover the U.S. Constitution, Brown v. the Board of Education, the Supremacy Clause, and the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause back when Horne was at Harvard Law.
Or maybe he was too busy chasin' skirts and getting banned for life by the Securities and Exchange Commission to notice.
In fact, Horne's "objection" is actually a very un-lawyer-like political screed, regurgitating all the tired, hateful shibboleths he's been peddling for years now, shibboleths he used to help get him elected back in 2010.
As is common practice among those who traffic in racial stereotypes and scapegoating, Horne refers to the MAS program as "racist and oppressive," deriding its "barrio pedagogy" and labeling its administrators and teachers "radical socialist activists" hell-bent on promoting an "an anti-capitalist and anti-Western Civilization ideology."
That's like David Duke calling Jesse Jackson a racist, a tactic only effective in the mind of David Duke, and those who think like him.
If you believe life is less complex in the land of the lefties, you're in for a big disappointment
Actually, the dedicated and courageous MAS instructors Horne maligns were intent on making sure that underprivileged and at-risk Hispanic kids had a chance at higher education, or at least high-school graduation.
Those are goals they excelled at achieving, according to a study commissioned by none other than Huppenthal himself, though Huppy was hoping for far different conclusions.
And that's what made the MAS educators targets of the far right, and red meat for shameless opportunists such as Horne, a man who believes in nothing save self-advancement, at any cost.
But as I've illustrated at length recently, Horne has self-destructed over Chenal-gate, the victim of his own lust, paranoia and perverse corruption. He has all the credibility of Donald Trump on President Obama's birth certificate. Maybe less.
As for his objection, if I were one of the Assistant Attorney Generals who affixed their names to this steaming pile of far right ideology masquerading as a legal brief, I would be embarrassed beyond belief.
So here they are, making their moms proud in service to a political sociopath who will go down in Arizona history as Tom "Hit-and-Run" Horne, the gold Jag-driving, ugly-bumping, falafel-noshing, Cuban-cuddling loser: Kevin Ray, Esq., Leslie Kyman Cooper, Esq., and Jinju Park, Esq.
And no, I don't feel sorry for them. There's honest work to be had at the public defender's office. Not to mention the local car wash.
If Judge Bury ultimately okays the USP, Horne will have to go pound sand.
That's the opinion of Tucson attorney Richard Martinez, who represents plaintiffs in a separate complaint in federal court, which argues that HB 2281 is unconstitutional and should be overturned.
I asked him what Horne could do, if Bury says grace over the Unitary Status Plan.
"Probably not a damn thing," he told me. "They would have to go back to Huppenthal and start the process all over again against the district."
Meaning that a brand spanking new ethnic studies program would require another adverse finding by Huppenthal. The Arizona Department of Education would have to investigate the program anew to see if it complies with the law, before Hupp could withhold state money to the district.
Indeed, in July, Bury blocked Horne from intervening in the desegregation case on behalf of the State of Arizona.
Which surely frustrates General Horne-dog no end. Heck, in the case Martinez is involved in, Horne defended the law in oral arguments before federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima in April, rather than allowing one of his better-qualified underlings to do so.
Eight months later, we're still waiting for Tashima's decision.
Now, what about that Tuesday vote by the TUSD's governing board, and the Byzantine, back-stabbing world of Tucson politics that surrounds it?
As you can see from the video above, pro-MAS activists such as David Abie Morales of the renowned Three Sonorans blog were initially jubilant over what they perceived as a victory.
TUSD, which is represented by former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini's law firm DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, initially had objected to the language opening the door to a new MAS program.
But a majority of the board supports the program, as evidenced by its 3-2 vote negating the objection. At least that's what most board members and some local reporters and observers believed had happened.
Now TUSD's administration and some of the board members are saying that's not what happened at all, that the 3-2 vote merely canned additional objections by board member and MAS-enemy Mark Stegeman.
But Morales, Martinez and others argue that was not the clear intent of the board, nor is it what occurred in reality.
Board member and MAS-supporter Adelita Grijalva told the Arizona Daily Star that the board will vote on the matter again when it sits in January, and that since the newly-elected board members are solidly pro-MAS, the outcome will be emphatic and clear up any confusion.
(You may recall that the very same board killed MAS in January, bowing to an edict from Huppenthal that they end the program or face a debilitating 10 percent cut to its funding.)
What will all this mean to Judge Bury? That's the big question, as many MAS supporters fear the DeConcini law firm will maintain that the objection to creating a new MAS program stands, and argue that the Tuesday vote indicates this.
Hopefully, Bury will be wise enough to see beyond all the posturing and spin, and do what's best for the kids and the community, which just happens to be what the special master and the plaintiffs suggest: the return of Mexican American Studies.
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