Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal, following in the tradition of George Wallace
Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal, following in the tradition of George Wallace
Uriel Garcia

John Huppenthal's Edict: 10 Percent of TUSD Cut Till MAS Is Killed

Today, state Schools Superintendent John Huppenthal ordered that 10 percent of the budget for the Tucson Unified School District be withheld until TUSD eradicates its Mexican American Studies program.

The cut is punitive and retroactive to August 15, 2011.

No great drama there. Huppenthal announced the school out of compliance with an anti-ethnic studies state statute back in June of last year.

This, despite the fact that his office paid for a $110,000 audit that found the MAS program actually helped at-risk kids excel and that it did not violate a vaguely-worded law drafted by now Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne with the express intent of eliminating it.

A recent decision in his favor by Administrative Law Judge Lewis Kowal gave Huppenthal the cover to do what he'd planned all along: Deny TUSD's 60-percent Latino population the opportunity to learn about its culture, while advancing academically in the process.

You can read Huppenthal's entire release below. I found the following passage in Huppenthal's press release the most insulting of the lot, which is saying something.

"Unfortunately, in TUSD Mexican American Studies courses, a troubling, common theme arose time and time again in course and instructional materials, books and lesson plans: Latino minorities have been and continue to be oppressed by a Caucasian majority." (Italics added.)

Huppenthal calls this message "harmful" and "dispiriting."

Thing is, it also happens to be true.

See, ARS 15-112 has been pimped by politicians such as Horne and Huppenthal in a cynical ploy to win votes by appealing to the nativist sentiments of a majority white electorate.

Neither Huppenthal nor Horne are true-believers in the nativist cause. But that doesn't matter.

Back in the days of segregation, politicians like Alabama Governor George Wallace knew that treading the path to power meant bashing blacks and making sure they stayed in their place.

And though the analogy is far from perfect, in today's Arizona -- at least among some  Republicans -- bashing Mexicans and Hispanic Americans is a tried and true way to achieve and maintain political office.

It's also part of a strategy -- a strategy that includes voter suppression, Horne's challenge to the Voting Rights Act, Senate Bill 1070, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's ethnic profiling ways, and a number of other measures aimed at keeping the brown down.

That strategy, the state GOP hopes, will allow a reactionary white power base to maintain its rule for at least another generation.

Demographics argue against such short-sighted and unconstitutional efforts. But to the degree the AZ GOP can drive Latinos from the state, deny their children an education, and keep them from the polls, nativist Republicans will remain in power.

Some GOPers know better, of course. But they have yet to take the reins of their party from the nativist extreme, though Russell Pearce's recall last year offers hope of a one-eighty, one day.

As far as the MAS program goes, only federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima possibly stands in the way of its obliteration. Currently there's a lawsuit challenging the statute by TUSD teachers and students before him, and he's considering a request from them for an injunction to halt further enforcement of the state's anti-MAS law.

If he does not act in the plaintiffs' favor, the TUSD board, which was recently taken over by MAS-haters, will kick MAS to the curb and call it a day.

Latinos and those in sympathy with their plight, need to focus on a political upheaval that will drive bad actors such as Huppenthal, Horne and others from power.

Only after what happened to Russell Pearce in Legislative District 18 happens statewide, in a broader fashion, will Arizona's ethnic and racial divides be healed. Till then, the Hornes and Huppenthals of Sand Land will continue to benefit.

Huppenthal's Press Release:

Phoenix, AZ, January 6, 2011 [sic]- Today, Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal released the following statement on his finding that Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) Mexican American Studies Program is in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112, as per his earlier June 15, 2011 ruling.

"After careful consideration of Judge KowaI's decision, the months-long investigation of TUSD's Mexican American Studies Program and the totality of the evidence gathered and thoroughly analyzed leading up to my June 15 ruling, I hereby accept Judge Kowal's recommendation in its entirety.

"The evidence is substantial and it is clear: TUSD's Mexican American Studies Program is in violation of A.R.S. § 15-112.

"The assertion that TUSD's Mexican American Studies Program was designed and implemented only to promote cultural diversity and a greater understanding of the role of Mexican Americans in this nation is inaccurate and incomplete. Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American Studies Program courses, curriculum and classroom materials have been found to (1) promote resentment toward a race or class of people; (2) be designed primarily for the pupils of a particular ethnic group; and (3) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

"Pursuant to Arizona state law, and until TUSD comes into compliance with A.R.S. § 15-112, I have directed the Arizona Department of Education to withhold ten percent of the monthly apportionment of state aid that would otherwise be due to Tucson Unified School District effective from August 15, 2011 through the present.

"For the educational well-being of all TUSD students and to ensure its schools receive the adequate resources they need to deliver a quality education, I strongly urge the TUSD governing board to take decisive and immediate action to come into compliance with A.R.S. § 15-112.

"All children--regardless of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status or any other means of differentiation--deserve access to a quality public education.

"Included within the formal education process should be the teaching of the complete history of important, transformative events. Discussing the past injustices of a class of people in a balanced, factually accurate and apolitical learning environment is a healthy part of the learning process, and should be encouraged.

"Unfortunately, in TUSD Mexican American Studies courses, a troubling, common theme arose time and time again in course and instructional materials, books and lesson plans: Latino minorities have been and continue to be oppressed by a Caucasian majority. This harmful, dispiriting message has no place in public education. It is contrary to everything public educators aspire to instill in our youth.

"Education programs should never teach children to resent or hate or feel victimized by another group of people for any reason, let alone simply because of certain individuals' ethnicity and skin color. Children of all backgrounds should be empowered by education programs to get ahead, not embittered to 'get even' or disheartened to give up.

"Unfortunately, both the past and present reality clearly shows that minority children from disadvantaged backgrounds in TUSD have not been getting ahead. They have not been afforded the same opportunities of more fortunate peers. Out of all of TUSD's schools which received an A-F letter grade from the Arizona Department of Education last year, one-third--32 schools-- received a 'D.' Those same "D" schools primarily cater to large populations of underprivileged, Latino students.

"Despite the many challenges historically facing TUSD, I have high hopes for its future and for the future of its students. In John Pedicone, TUSD has a superintendent with a successful track record in other school districts of improving education outcomes for students. In addition, the recent change in leadership on TUSD's school board, with its renewed emphasis on improving academics for all of its students, holds promise for all students at TUSD for improved performance in subject areas that will help them become productive citizens of the community and the state.

"Going forward, my hope and expectation is that the TUSD Board, with the support and leadership of Superintendent Pedicone, will develop a transparent, public process to insure that all curriculum and course materials align with state education standards and applicable laws and are thoroughly vetted by educators, curriculum experts and the local community.

"My staff at the Arizona Department of Education and I look forward to the opportunity to partner with TUSD's leadership in the coming days, weeks and months ahead to advance the educational opportunities for all of its students."

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