Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona

TUSD’s plan to reorganize Ethnic Studies

Dozens– if not hundreds– of articles about Tucson Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies Program have been posted on the Tucson Citizen website. The vast majority of these posts have been based upon conjecture, hyperbole, and name-calling. This article will be based upon facts.

Ethnic Studies is a group of programs in TUSD. That umbrella name covers Mexican American Studies,  African American Studies, Native American Studies, and Pan Asian Studies. If you follow these links, you will find that each of these programs under Ethnic Studies is organized and staffed differently. Arizona’s discriminatory legislation which targeted TUSD was primarily aimed at the Mexican American Studies Program (MAS)– alternatively dubbed Raza Studies— because former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne believes MAS instructors are teaching revolution and hatred for the majority population. (Summarizing here.)

You know the history. The bill passed. There were protests. A lawsuit with 11 MAS teachers as defendants was filed. Horne became Arizona attorney general. Immediately upon taking office he found TUSD out of compliance with the law and threatened TUSD with the loss of 10% of its funding if it didn’t shut down MAS. Editorials, blog posts, angry meetings, charges of racism and vendettas followed. John Huppenthal, the current Superintendent of Public Instruction, launched his own evaluation of MAS to see if they are in compliance with the law (which TUSD claims it is); that decision is still pending and may be revealed after the end of the school year.

The latest round of hype is swirling around the TUSD’s last board meeting and the next one on April 26, 2011– next Tuesday.

The latest charges of racism have been leveled because the TUSD board has called for transparency and a review of all desegregation funding– $68 million. This review would include but by no means be limited to a review of MAS funding. At next week’s board meeting the TUSD board will hear and presumably vote on a proposal to reorganize MAS.

Included below– whole cloth– is the resolution to be heard by the TUSD board. I have added some italic type to improve readability, but otherwise there have been no modifications to this document. I provide this to my readers to help you make an informed opinion.

Resolution (draft) concerning the scope and structure of TUSD’s Ethnic Studies programs and maintaining political balance in classrooms.


The traditional high school core curriculum substantially ignores the experience and contributions of many ethnic minorities.

The Mexican-American Studies (MAS) courses are meant to fill at least the part of this gap which pertains to Mexican-Americans, but in any given year fewer than 5% of TUSD’s high school students take any of the MAS classes. The MAS classes typically attract enrollment far below their capacity and are about half the size of theregular core classes.

According to certain measures, among certain sample populations, staff analysis dated 3/11/11 shows that students who take MAS classes out perform those who do not. If this relationship is causal, then, averaging over the past three years, the MAS courseshave helped about 10 more TUSD juniors per year to pass the AIMS reading test (with smaller gains for the writing and math tests) and have similarly helped about 10 more seniors to graduate.

The MAS teachers and curriculum have increased many students’ motivation to succeed, by the students’ own convincing testimony.

The annual cost of the MAS program is slightly over $1 million, several times the costof educating the MAS students in standard core classes. The combined annual cost ofthe other three Ethnic Studies programs is about $1.6 million.

TUSD has not systematically evaluated how the four Ethnic Studies programs affect student achievement. Collectively, those programs have had no apparent success inclosing the achievement gaps.

Students who are Latino but not Mexican-American fall outside the purview of TUSD’s current Ethnic Studies programs.

The state’s requirements for the high school Social Sciences core are long and specificand will be augmented in academic year 2011-12 by a new Economics requirement.There is flexibility in how to cover the required topics but also an inherent limit on how much time can be spent covering particular events and themes. Whether the MAS Social Studies courses have maintained adequate coverage of the core topics is questionable.

The state’s requirements for the high school English core emphasize skills but also include familiarity with American, British, and world literature, classic works of literature, and major literary periods and traditions.

The MAS courses are deliberately founded upon a specific political and educational philosophy. A central component is “a counter-hegemonic curriculum.” Students who rely on these courses to satisfy core requirements may thus hear, like those who rely on traditional core courses, a relatively narrow range of viewpoints.

Many persons have expressed concern that some MAS instructors display and promote a strong political bias while teaching or otherwise representing the district; these concerns include strongly encouraging students in the MAS classes to participate in political activities which have a consistent partisan orientation.

Therefore, the TUSD Governing Board resolves that staff should recommendpolicies and undertake actions to achieve the following goals, in TUSD’s highschools:

The traditional core sequences in Social Sciences and English should be strengthened by adding a significant component which focuses on the contributions and view points of Mexican-Americans and other ethnic minorities, especially in this region, to create a multi-cultural perspective. The staff of the current Ethnic Studies departments should help to develop this component. The new core material cannot come at the expense of adequate treatment of the topics required by the state.

The MAS courses should continue to be offered, in accordance with student demand.

Commencing with the 2011-12 academic year, the MAS courses cannot be used tosatisfy the state’s core Social Science requirements. The courses used to satisfy those requirements should be taught by regular high school faculty and expose all students to a common set of diverse viewpoints. This change shall not affect the Social Science core credit earned by students who took the MAS courses in previous semesters.

Staff should develop a recommendation concerning whether a student should be able to use MAS literature courses to satisfy part of the state’s core English requirement and whether this would require any changes in those courses. The MAS literature courses shall continue to be an option for satisfying the state’s core Englishrequirement, for academic year 2011-12.

The Ethnic Studies departments (however titled) [referring here to all of the Ethnic Studies programs, not just MAS] should adopt academic support for individual students as a primary mission, using proven models. Staff should develop instruments and methods to evaluate these support programs and to determine whetherthey are actually improving students’ academic results and providing satisfactoryreturn on the resources invested.

These support programs should extend their scope to serve students of Latino, African American, Native American, Asian and Pan-Asian background, students who are refugees, and other minority populations.

Total funding for the Ethnic Studies programs should be increased, to reflect these expanded roles, as finances allow. The relative funding of the programs should be adjusted to reduce the disparity between these funding levels and the composition of the district’s student population.

Staff should study ways to reduce administrative overhead in the Ethnic Studies departments, potentially including consolidation of functions.

Staff should consider the appropriate role of the internal and external compliance officers in monitoring the achievement of these goals and, if appropriate, make recommendations to the Board.

Staff, working with the Board’s policy subcommittee, should recommend new policy,regulations, or procedures to reinforce Board policy IMB on teaching sensitive issues, in particular to ensure that classroom treatment of political topics is reasonably balanced. It is impractical to require absolute objectivity, but students should be exposed to and encouraged to express, evaluate, and compare a wide range of viewpoints, without being steered toward one side of current policy debates orcontroversial issues.

Staff should require teachers to keep copies of their course examinations on file for a set number of years, for the purpose of examination and analysis.

Staff should make a progress report to the Board in January 2012.

40 comments on “TUSD’s plan to reorganize Ethnic Studies

  1. Miguel Ortega
    April 20, 2011

    What is the definition of McCarthyism again?
    “Many persons have expressed concern that some MAS instructors display and promote a strong political bias while teaching or otherwise representing the district”


  2. Three Sonorans
    April 20, 2011

    Wow Pam… you really don’t get it do you? I know Mark Stegeman is a personal friend and all, but even Judy Burns called this resolution “racist garbage.”
    The reason why, you didn’t even address, because it seems you are getting your talking points from elsewhere.
    THE MOST IMPORTANT statement in the resolution above you didn’t address:
    “Commencing with the 2011-12 academic year, the MAS courses cannot be used to satisfy the state’s core Social Science requirements.”
    This gives MAS courses second-class status as electives, and drastically affects the program. What, now you are going to make an at-risk youth, who for the last 10 years was improving test scores and graduating, and now make them take twice as many courses, leaving less time for “core requirements”… you will have less enrollment… then less teachers… which is the exact OPPOSITE of what the Post-Unitary Plan calls for.
    Mark Stegeman wants to have access to that money but not expand Mexican-American Studies. It’s time for the Civil Rights commission to come in. Firing all the teachers at mostly-minority schools… getting rid of the graduation credit MAS provides… these are all violations of the PUP and your friend will be found guilty.


    • Three Sonorans
      April 20, 2011

      oh, and by the way, the budget of MAS is under a million. From the Post-Unitary Plan online it shows it to be $580,000.
      Think carefully before you decide which side of history you will be on Pam.


    • Three Sonorans
      April 20, 2011

      Your boy Stegeman also continues to ignore the teacher’s union, time and time again… think carefully before you decide to side with an elected official over the unions also…


      • Don
        April 20, 2011

        OK, I can’t resist…what’s the peril associated with taking a side opposite the teachers’ union?  Will they all call in sick en masse?


        • Patricia
          April 22, 2011

          You should have resisted.  There is no teacher’s union.


    • Pamela Powers
      April 20, 2011

      I purposefully did not interject my opinion into this piece because I wanted it to be based in fact, so don’t shoot the messenger. I do not side completely with your group or Stegeman; I am a member of that large group in the grey area between these two positions. I have repeated by position elsewhere many times but will repeat it again, since people have begun twisting it already…

      I wholeheartedly support the right to teach and learn ethnic studies. I believe the Arizona law targeting ethnic studies is discriminatory, and I hope the teachers win their lawsuit. Regarding all other related issues– such as staff performance or effectiveness of the program– I have seen no data and cannot offer an opinion on these issues. As someone who has worked in research for more than 20 years, I believe that TUSD should evaluate all of its programs and that all funding should be transparent.


      • Three Sonorans
        April 20, 2011

        The two sides are to keep MAS as it is, or to take away its graduation credit. Where exactly “in between” are you?


      • Three Sonorans
        April 20, 2011

        And what evidence is there to show that making MAS an elective will help out minorities… I haven’t seen this data anywhere.


  3. Wolf
    April 20, 2011

    My God, all I hear about is MEXICAN STUDIES regarding this program. If they want to learn about Mexican history READ the news. Last I knew Social Studies programs fit the bill to learn History.
    School system are WAY out of Control or should I say Teachers Unions.
    If Social Studies does not satisfy Mexican Ethnic studies Hit the road Jack (south)


  4. Rebecca
    April 20, 2011

    this is horrible. an insult. an outrage. a discredit. a slap in the face. appalling: at BEST. a mealy-mouthed attempt to snuggle up next to the xenophobic policies of tom horne…. i know that two courageous women on the board will not support it…hoping we can convince cuevas to join them on the right side of justice in this historic case. this will be looked back upon with the same disgust as previous human rights atrocities in our country’s history…and those supporting compliance with an unjust law should be ashamed, for certain they will be written as shameful.


  5. Ernie McCray
    April 20, 2011

    Ah, the life of “minorities.”
    Everything scrutinized.
    Have to fight for every
    single thing we want to realize.
    Everyone gets to weigh in
    but our thoughts
    are marginalized.
    Then when we speak our piece
    we’re seen as playing the “race” card
    in society’s eyes.
    But still we rise
    for seeking justice is
    our enterprise.


    • Ernie McCray
      April 20, 2011

      I touch on such thoughts as “seeking justice” mentioned above in “Brown and Proud” and “Embracing Our Rich Ethnic Diversity” under: http://tucsoncitizen.com/from-the-soul/


    • Three Sonorans
      April 20, 2011

      Stegeman… Pedicone… Horne… Huppenthal… all the people in charge of Mexican-American studies… how many of them are minority?  How many of them are K-12 school teachers? How many of them are even experts in this field?


  6. Pingback: TUSD’s plan to reorganize Ethnic Studies – Tucson Citizen | The Write Article

  7. bill
    April 20, 2011

    These comments, particularly those by Abie Morales and Miguel Ortega display the same tired old tactic of demonizing anyone who attempts to have even a civil discussion of the MAS/Raza Studies program. This time around Ortega gets to do the name calling… “McCarthysim” (without any evidence how this even remotely resembles McCarthyism),  and Morales gets to do the not so subtle threats…”Think carefully before you decide which side of history you will be on Pam.” This is garbage being heaped on a blogger just for printing…without comment…a proposed change in TUSD policy.


    • Pamela Powers
      April 20, 2011

      Thanks for defending my honor, Bill. My article is being misrepresented on the Citizen and on facebook as an attack on MAS and a bow to the reorg plan– just because I dared to supply the actual in-tact document for the public to read.


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  9. Carolyn Classen
    April 21, 2011

    Pam, do you know why the TUSD Governing Board is considering this MAS proposal, before the audit/investigation ordered by the AZ Dept. of Education is complete? Isn’t that report supposed to be done by mid-May?


    • Pamela Powers
      April 21, 2011

      Nope, I don’t know. Yes, it is my understanding that the report is supposed be out around the end of the school year.


  10. Vato Loco
    April 21, 2011

    Pam, as a parent of a TUSD 4th grader who takes Mexican American Studies(MAS) curricula, I am always following articles concerning this program. Naturally, I opened this column and much to my dismay, was dumbfounded. What you posted was, let be very transparent, a piece of propaganda. Mr. Stegemen’s propagandist so called “resolution” lacks any data that supports his position and the position of the man driving this attack on the Mexican American and Tucson’ s “progressive” community, John Pedicome. Pam, you pawn yourself as a progressive who is in the “gray area” regarding this issue of MAS, yet your action of disseminating this propaganda by Stegemen screams your positionality. By allowing your readers access to this propaganda in order to help them as you say, “make an informed opinion” you actually continued the mis-information being propagated by conservative John Pedicome and self-proclaimed “democrat” Mark Stegemen. As a parent and a stakeholder in this “conservative” attack on my son’s and his classmates education, please stay out of the way. It is hard enough dealing with all these conservative, ignorant people (your column continued to feed this cycle of ignorance) who want to turn back the clock of history to an era of de jure segregation. Question. What program address the achievement gap of any minority group? The ONLY program in the United States whether you use MAS data or John Pedicome’s data which he secretly had compiled in hopes of discrediting MAS’s data, is very lucid. Both sets of data point to my son’s Mexican American program as the only program to address the achievement gap. Question. What program do Republican John Pedicome and so called democrat Stegemen have to replace our successful MAS program that address the achievement gap? THEY DO NOT!!! In closing, you respond to Bill the following: “Thanks for defending my honor, Bill. My article is being misrepresented on the Citizen and on facebook as an attack on MAS and a bow to the reorg plan– just because I dared to supply the actual in-tact document for the public to read.” Based on Bill’s comment, it is clear that he is one of the many mis-informed, conservative, ignorant people we are trying to save from their own bigotry. Sadly, you accept his conservative statement as defending your honor. As a progressive, maybe you should look in the mirror (Tezcatlipoca) and be honest to your heart as to why so many people are attacking or as you say “misrepresenting” your article. Why are so many progressive Tucsonan’s disappointed? Please be honest with yourself…


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  12. Concern Parent
    April 24, 2011

    From the Tucson Weekly:”Because Stegeman is a Democrat, the Southern Arizona Unity Coalition’s Solomon Baldenegro Jr. sent e-mails and began a Facebook campaign asking people to call all TUSD governing board members and Democratic Party officials, asking them to pressure Stegeman”And you say that this is not political…….Here’s another thing, these so called supporters of Ethic Studies are doing exactly what they accused Tom Horn in doing, meddling in TUSD business.Have any of these so called supporters even looked at the drop-out rate for Hispanics?  I think if you did you would be pissed that the MAS program has no intentions to help these kids.MAS supporters, you are being oppressed, by the Democratic party.Remember, it’s about the kids, keep politics out of our schools…


    • Ernie McCray
      April 25, 2011

      MAS has not had any intention to “help these kids” since when? How do you “keep politics out of our schools”…? How do you not meddle in “TUSD business” if you want to right a wrong in the system? Meddling comes in many forms and Solomon Baldenegro meddles in behalf of students who have lost a program valued by them whereas Tom Horn is simply meddling out of his racist fears.


    • leftfield
      April 25, 2011

      Remember, it’s about the kids, keep politics out of our schools…

      I’m afraid that particular horse left the barn long ago.


      • Ernie McCray
        April 25, 2011

        Long long time ago.


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  16. Wesley
    April 30, 2011

    I live in Texas. I’ve been following this story since the students came out and protested.

    The arguments on both sides of the aisle are littered with biased trash. A lot of needless fluff.

    One side says “The White Man is coming to get you!”

    The other says “Look at those uppity mongrels, have they no respect for order?”

    It’s all junk.

    The program could save itself simply by switching out or elimnating one or two textbooks. Plain and simple.

    All this other B.S. is straight PRIDE. Ego vs. Ego

    Take a book like “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos”.
    It is clearly an opinion piece.  To say that it is completely necessary to have this one book in the curriculum and no other, less militant, book could possibly be found to replace it while providing the same level of education, is absurd.

    I remember having to learn about all the little intricacies of World War II but nobody from the state put Mein Kampf in my curriculum, even though it gives great incite on Hitler’s opinions and reasons (in his head at least) for a lot of the things he did.

    One rational man could say that, in the pursuit of knowledge, having all points of view helps one to achieve a greater understanding of the truth.

    Another rational man could say that young minds are impressionable. They need clear and unbiased guidance on the part of the teacher when approaching highly opinionated works of literature.

    I cannot be in the class to observe whether the teacher is playing the role of “Moderator” or “Director”. There are some things I can’t know. And neither can any of you unless you are there sitting in the class with them, for many days at time.

    Nevertheless, each side on this topic seems to think they know everything when it is clear they have little to no answers for the really important, and ultimately most relevant questions.


  17. Jim Hannley
    May 1, 2011

    I have been troubled for some time by Abie’s assertion “even Judy Burns calls this proposal racist garbage” because I could not imagine in this circumstance that she would speak to a fellow board member that way. Upon searching for this, I discovered that Abie’s quote of her was contained in his update of an April 11th post in which he quotes her as saying “We cannot give in to this racist garbage”. She did not refer to the proposal specifically but I took it to mean the entire assault on MAS. I mean to write her provide his link and ask her if she was characterizing Stegeman’s proposal in this way. If it is indeed the case that he was misquoting her I doubt I will ever regard his posts again as good representations of the truth.


    • Three Sonorans
      May 2, 2011

      She was DIRECTLY referring to Stegeman’s proposal. It was her response to it.
      It is interesting the lengths you are going to defend Mark Stegeman. The Latino community has noticed, and I am always asked about you two. I doubt they will ever regard you as on their side again for choosing a clearly wrong side on this historic issue.
      Where is Stegeman’s evidence? Where are his numbers? You guys lied to me about him. Not ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE that MAS is bad, and yet he want’s to make it an elective. He says it is because it does not satisfy state standards, which is a lie.
      Yet you continue to defend his lies? His attack on Mexican-Americans because he takes you to the opera? Now you understand the cultural divide, and how even white liberals can fall on the wrong side when it comes to racism.


      • Pamela Powers
        May 4, 2011

        Where did you get the idea that I have ever been to an opera– let alone with Stegeman?


    • Three Sonorans
      May 2, 2011

      And when Judy verifies that it was indeed Mark Stegeman’s resolution that she called “racist garbage” what do I get in return… your trust? Your respect?

      Nope, I only have but to lose, and no matter what, you will defend an attack on the Latino community. That is what you have shown to be true by your actions.
      Mark Stegeman doesn’t need to be racist to attack the Latino community. An attack is an attack, whether it be from Tom Horne or Mark Stegeman, and there is no compromise when neither the MAS program nor the state are seated at the table. Why not stand up for justice against an unconstitutional bill, rather than give in to a guy who ran his campaign promising to “Stop La Raza.”
      Why you have chosen the wrong side of history, Jim, I do not understand.


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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela Powers Hannley

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals--not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election. My platform focuses on economic reforms to grow Arizona's economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, growlocal small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs. I also stand for equal rights, choice, and paycheck fairness for women. I am running as a progressive and running clean.

My day job is managing editor for the American Journal of Medicine, an academic medicine journal with a worldwide circulation. In addition, my husband and I co-direct Arizonans for a New Economy, Arizona's public banking initiative. I am a member of the national board of the Public Banking Institute, and I am co-chair of the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus of the Arizona Democratic Party.

I am a published author, photographer, videographer, clay artist, mother, nana, and wife. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a masters in public health from the University of Arizona. I grew up in Amherst, Ohio, but I have lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1981. I am a proud member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and the Public Relations Society of America.

My Tucson Progressive blog and Facebook page feature large doses of liberal ideas, local, state, and national politics, and random bits of humor. I also blog at Blog for Arizona and the Huffington Post.

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