Arizona School Chief’s Takes Parting Shot at Tucson’s ‘Culturally Relevant’ Classes

By Julianne Hing Jan 06, 2015

In a final parting shot before leaving office, former Arizona state superintendent and longtime foe of Tucson’s ethnic studies curriculum John Huppenthal filed a memo last week declaring Tucson’s current "culturally relevant" courses in violation of the state law. 

The courses, which are required under a decades-old federal desegregation order, replaced Tucson’s ethnic studies curriculum, which was outlawed when the Arizona state legislature passed HB 2281 in 2010, which was adopted as Arizona Revised Statutes 15-112. With its current "culturally relevant courses," Tucson Unified School District "has failed to meet several provisions of the 2012 Settlement Agreement settlement and is once again in clear violation of A.R.S. 15-112," Huppenthal wrote, Tucson’s KVOA reported. "Furthermore, I am deeply concerned by the fact that the noncompliance appears to extend beyond classes taught from the Mexican American perspective and now also includes classes taught from the African American perspective."

Tucson’s public schools reminded Huppenthal that the courses are actually court-mandated–the result of a 1974 federal desegregation order. "That order … requires us to develop and implement culturally relevant courses taught from both the Mexican American and African American perspectives," the district responded, KVOA reported.

The final word in this, just the latest phase of the yearslong struggle in Arizona over how and whether to teach classes which recognize the heritage and histories of Arizona’s students and the state itself, will actually be left to Arizona’s brand new schools superintendent, Diane Douglas.

If Douglas sides with Huppenthal’s findings, Tucson faces a 10 percent cut in state funding, which would mean a loss of $14 million per year, the Arizona Daily Star reported.