Fresh on the heels of a new immigration law that has led to calls to boycott her state, Arizona’s governor has signed a bill banning ethnic studies classes that “promote resentment” of other racial groups.
Gov. Jan Brewer approved the measure without public statement Tuesday, according to state legislative records. The new law forbids elementary or secondary schools to teach classes that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and advocate “the overthrow of the United States government” or “resentment toward a race or class of people.”
Hmmmm, I wonder what she thinks about Confederate History Month.
The bill was pushed by state school Superintendent Tom Horne, who has spent two years trying to get Tucson schools to drop a Mexican-American studies program he said teaches Latino students they are an oppressed minority.
Brewer‘s signature comes less than a month after she approved a state law that requires immigrants to carry their registration documents at all times and allows police to question individuals’ immigration status in the process of enforcing any other law or ordinance. Critics of the law say it will lead to racial profiling, while supporters say it involves no racial profiling and is needed to crack down on increasing crime involving illegal immigrants.
From the Arizona Daily Star:
TUSD [Tucson Unified School District] canceled a meeting between the district and Tom Horne on Wednesday after district officials accused the state superintendent of public instruction of politicizing what was supposed to have been a private talk about its ethnic-studies program.
Horne’s planned visit came less than 24 hours after Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation targeting ethnic studies.
Horne has been a longtime critic of the Tucson Unified School District’s Raza Studies program, saying it promotes ethnic chauvinism.
Wednesday’s meeting was initiated by Horne, according to the TUSD, even though Horne’s office said Wednesday that TUSD had extended the invitation to meet at its headquarters, 1010 E. 10th St.
News of the meeting got out through social-networking sites, text messages and word of mouth, prompting more than 300 Tucson High Magnet and Wakefield Middle school students to walk out of class.
At TUSD’s central office, students chanted various slogans including, “Education is not a crime.” They linked arms and formed a human chain to prevent Horne from entering the building.
“That bill is nothing but lies, and it claims that our classes breed racial chauvinism,” said Alfonso Chavez, a Tucson High senior.
Wakefield students were escorted by Mexican-American studies teacher Alexandro Escamilla, who said he went along to monitor the children.
Acting Superintendent Maggie Shafer noted that the students had First Amendment rights, but she said they needed to be in class.
As a result of the protests, district officials canceled the meeting with Horne.
“I thought we were holding a meaningful dialogue about ethnic studies and the importance of the classes,” Shafer said. “But it’s turned into a political event, and we have no interest in that.”
Horne, a Republican candidate for state attorney general, held a news conference at the State Building, 400 W. Congress St., despite the meeting cancellation. He rebutted the district’s statement that his visit had been politicized, saying his only intention was to learn more about the other ethnic-studies programs offered at TUSD – African-American studies, Native American studies and Pan-Asian Studies. He said he felt he knew enough about Mexican-American studies and intends to go after TUSD when the legislation takes effect on Dec. 31.
If the district is found not to be in compliance, the Arizona Department of Education can withhold funding.
The new law concerns TUSD Governing Board member Mark Stegeman.
“I am concerned because the law is vague and allows the state superintendent to withhold millions of dollars from the district, based on his interpretation of those subjective provisions,” Stegeman said.
Stegeman plans to propose to the district the creation of an independent temporary panel to review the ethnic-studies program and assess its compliance with the new law. The law says 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.”
It also makes it illegal for public schools to have any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
The law also bars any programs “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.”
TUSD officials who reviewed the legislation have said nothing they are doing in the program violates the new law.
The final decision on whether a school program violates the law is to be determined by the state Board of Education or the state school superintendent.
Horne said that because his term will be ending days later, it will be in the hands of the new superintendent to follow up.
Horne’s fight against TUSD’s Raza Studies goes back to 2007, when activist Dolores Huerta spoke at Tucson High and told students that Republicans hate Latinos. Rather than put an end to controversial speakers at public schools, Horne brought Garcia Dugan, a Latina Republican, to the school to show the other side.
While Garcia Dugan spoke, students stood up, turned their backs to her and put their fists in the air.
Horne and Garcia Dugan said Wednesday that they had never seen such disrespect from students to a speaker, and they firmly believed that the students didn’t learn to be rude at home, but in the classroom. Horne referred to testimony from current and former teachers as proof that Raza Studies students are taught not to trust other ethnicities, their teachers or the education system. Horne has said he has never visited an ethnic-studies class.
From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Arizona’s new law restricting ethnic studies is the brainchild of the state’s ambitious top education official, Tom Horne, who is locked in a Republican primary for Attorney General against a prominent ally of hardline Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Horne is now trumpeting the bill, which he wrote and pushed through the legislature, on his attorney general campaign website. His GOP primary opponent, Arpaio-ally Andrew Thomas, is a right-wing champion of anti-immigration policies.
Parallels have been drawn between the new ethnic studies law and the state’s immigration law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer less than a month before she signed the ethnic studies bill without public comment Tuesday. But the new legislation explicitly targets Hispanics in a way that the immigration bill — which, some proponents argued, was about public safety and jobs — did not.
Bruce Merrill, a state pollster and professor emeritus at Arizona State University, notes that Tucson is heavily Hispanic. “The population has grown very quickly, and I dont know how you can look at the [ethnic studies] law in any other way than being punitive,” he tells TPMmuckraker. “It’s obviously more directed toward Hispanics as a group, keeping them down or being fearful of them, in terms of this growing population threat.”
“This is classic identity politics,” says Rodolfo Espino, a professor at ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies. “The rhetoric coming from Tom Horne and his supporters is anything detracting from teaching what is American identity should not be supported by taxpayer dollars.”
When it takes effect on Dec. 31, districts in violation (as determined by the superintendent or the state board of education) will face a 10% cut of state education funds. The director of the Tucson district’s Mexican-American studies department says the district, which also offers courses in African-American studies, Native American studies and Asian studies, is not in violation and won’t change its offerings.
A very small number of students would be affected by any change. The Los Angeles Times reported that only 3% of the Tucson district’s 55,000 students take ethnic studies classes.
But as a political symbol the bill may have a much greater effect.
Horne’s opponent in the primary for attorney general is former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who, as a top ally of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has sterling anti-immigration credentials. As can be seen in this new ad, where Thomas poses in front of an imposing fence on the border — and in both candidates’ pronouncements to get tough on border security — immigration is a key issue in the race.
The ethnic studies law is Horne’s answer to Thomas’ immigration record. Horne’s campaign website currently includes headlines like “Tom Horne Championed Bill to Ban Ethnic Studies” and “Alarming Video Shows a L.A. Teacher Calling for Mexican Revolt in the U.S.” above a picture of Hispanic protesters of the law dressed in quasi-paramilitary garb and bearing pictures of Cesar Chavez.
[Espino says,] “What allowed for it to pass is the fact that you finally have a friendly governor in office who is going to sign things like this. [Former Governor Janet] Napolitano was really quick with the veto pen over these sorts of things. Having her gone now has opened the floodgates. A lot of these players feel empowered.”