Tucson Has 60 Days to Shut Down Ethnic Studies Classes

Get ready for a showdown between the district's teachers and state school officials.

By Julianne Hing Jan 06, 2011

The same day that he took office as Arizona’s new state school superintendent this week, John Huppenthal released a statement affirming his predecessor’s finding that the Tucson Unified School District has violated HB 2281 by offering ethnic studies classes to high school students.

On Tuesday Huppenthal gave the TUSD 60 days to shut down the classes or face the loss of nearly $15 million in state funding. HB 2281, which went into effect on December 31 of last year, forbids any school district from offering classes intended for any one racial or ethnic group, and bans curriculum that encourages "overthrow of the U.S. government." Under HB 2281, the state superintendent has the sole power to issue findings and withhold 10 percent of a district’s state funding if a district breaks the law.

Representatives from the district say they plan to appeal the ruling, but insist the current classes do not violate the new law, which Gov. Jan Brewer signed last year. They say that the courses have in fact helped retain high school students who might otherwise have dropped out, and that students enrolled in the courses have eventually gone on to college at higher rates than students who didn’t take them.

Huppenthal said he nevertheless found the classes to be "troubling." "My, firsthand, classroom encounter clearly revealed an unbalanced, politicized and historically inaccurate view of American History being taught," he said in a statement.

"These minority students are being consigned to a lesser future," Huppenthal said. "They deserve better."