Arizona’s Gov. Brewer Signs Ethnic Studies Ban Into Law

By Julianne Hing May 12, 2010

It’s crazy times in Arizona, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is going to make sure that no one forgets that. Yesterday, Brewer signed HB 2281 into law, a bill that prohibits schools from teaching classes designed to teach students of color about their heritage and history because such classes promote resentment and encourage students to want to "overthrow" the U.S. government. Such classes, the bill says, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individual people. State schools chief Tom Horne, who has been pushing for the bill for years, said that ethnic studies and Chicano history classes in Tucson, Arizona, encourage Latino students to believe they’ve been oppressed by white people. Horne cited a book on one class’s reading list as particularly suspect: Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuna, a leading scholar in Chicano studies at Cal State University, Northridge. Horne told Yahoo news:

Public schools should not be encouraging students to resent a particular race, he said. "It’s just like the old South, and it’s long past time that we prohibited it," Horne said.

Judy Burns, president of the Tucson Unified School District’s governing board says she will not comply with the law and has no plans to end her district’s literature, history and sociology courses that focus on Chicano history and authors. Three percent of the district’s 55,000 students are currently enrolled in the 14-year-old districtwide ethnic studies program. A Brewer spokesperson defended the governor’s position: "The governor believes … public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people," Paul Senseman said. Districts that do not comply with the law could lose 10 percent of their state funding every month. Localities are allowed to appeal the law, which will go into effect on Dec 31.