Review of Tucson's Raza Studies Program by Schools Chief John Huppenthal Starts Monday; Tucson District's Funding On Line

The Arizona Department of Education is paying more than $170,000 to a Texas company that will research whether Tucson's Raza Studies program violates a new state law.

A bit of a brouhaha caused the lead researcher contracted with the company, Steve Gallon, to step aside due to revelations of a past accusation related to theft of school services. But the review by Cambium Learning Group of Dallas will go on as scheduled, says Andy LeFevre, spokesman for state schools superintendent John Huppenthal.

Former schools chief Tom Horne, a major critic of Tucson's Raza program, declared the program to be out of compliance with the law he pushed soon after taking the office of state Attorney General in January. Huppenthal also said he thinks the program isn't in compliance, but ordered the review to get an independent opinion. 

The new law prohibits classes that:

1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government. 2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people. 3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. 4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

If the Tucson Unified School District is found to be violating the law, it risks losing up to 10 percent of its funding each month.

Huppenthal expects to receive results of the Cambium review, then make a final decision on whether TUSD should have its funds decimated.

For the $170,000, Cambium will collect and review course materials, conduct interviews of teachers, students and parents, and sit in on classes. The company will also examine whether the Raza Studies classes have improved the academic achievements of Latino students who took them, LeFevre says.

Horne's conclusions on classes can be read on the AG's Web site.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.