LatinaLista — Of all the states in the southwest where the anti-immigrant fervor has been the strongest and loudest — legislatively and law enforcement speaking — is Arizona.
One prime example that questions whether some people really are concerned about the consequences of illegal immigration or are targeting Latinos is the fight over ethnic studies being allowed in Arizona schools.
An amendment added to Senate Bill 1069 states:
A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL IN THIS STATE SHALL NOT INCLUDE
IN THE PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION ANY COURSES OR CLASSES THAT EITHER:
1. ARE DESIGNED PRIMARILY FOR PUPILS OF A PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUP.
2. ADVOCATE ETHNIC SOLIDARITY INSTEAD OF THE TREATMENT OF PUPILS AS INDIVIDUALS.
The amendment stems from the criticisms voiced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne against the Tucson school district’s ethnic studies program. Horne feels the ethnic studies classes for Mexican American students promote “ethnic chauvinism.”
The amendment to SB 1069 basically says that any school district or charter school that insists on supplying ethnic studies classes to their students will lose 10 percent of its state funds each month. Only when the school or district shuts the program down will the money be returned.
Naturally, this proposed bill has outraged educators who see the benefits of the program outweighing any alleged negativities.
…some (Tucson) board members want to expand the program to middle school. Students are on waiting lists to get into the courses at Tucson and Cholla High Magnet Schools, said Augustine Romero, who heads the district program.
Romero also teaches one of the courses, U.S. Government and Social Justice. This course teaches the historic functions of government by tracking the changes in court decisions and legislation that reflect America’s changing attitudes toward minorities.
Romero said the district supports the courses for good reasons: They connect students to their cultural past and their roles in American history, including students with Native American, Mexican, Asian and African American heritages. They heighten student interest and make the courses relevant to their everyday experience. Data collected since 2002 by the Tucson school district show students who attend the courses perform better on AIMS, the state’s standardized test, than students who do not attend the courses. That fulfills the goal of No Child Left Behind, which is to raise student achievement among minority students.
Apparently the National Education Association (NEA)agrees.
According to Jose del Barrio, a social justice educator with the Los Angeles Unified School District and president of the Association of Raza Educators, the NEA granted some very special support to the fight against the ban of ethnic studies in Arizona.
del Barrio reports that he was able to get a motion passed at a recent NEA conference to defend ethnic studies in Arizona. The motion comes with $26,000 in resources to help grassroots activists working to preserve the classes.