Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TUSD Won't Lose 10% of Funds Over Culturally Relevant Classes For Now; Diane Douglas Will Continue to Monitor the District

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 5:01 PM

At a press conference in Phoenix this afternoon, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, with Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez by her side, announced that, for now, TUSD is not losing 10 percent of its monthly state aid, or $14 million, over allegations the district was in violation of the state's anti-Mexican American studies law.

Although she is happy with TUSD's "progress," the Arizona Department of Education will continue to monitor the district through the end of the school year to ensure they are "in compliance with the law."

Again, Douglas brought up that the content itself is not the issue (but that is protected by the Unitary Status Plan, a federal court order that says TUSD must include culturally relevant classes in its schools), rather the methods used by some TUSD teachers to implement it in the classrooms. She said the education department is concerned that some of them are not following the culturally relevant curriculum approved by the school board.

What exactly are teachers doing that she does not like or that entails "not following the curricula," it's still vague. Earlier today, I spoke with Cholla educator Andrew Walanski, who's English from an African-American perspective class was deemed illegal in part for using content written by rapper and activist KRS-One (who recently visited Cholla High!), and he said ADE still hasn't told him what exactly he is doing wrong, even though they have been in and out of his classroom for months now.

Douglas and Sanchez seem to be working well together, though.

"I have been very appreciative and impressed by the support provided by Superintendent Douglas and her staff," TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez said at the conference. "(I am) committed to doing good work, fully reestablish public confidence in all of the things we do. I am committed to working with Superintendent Douglas, and teachers and staff in TUSD. Together we were able to avoid a costly loss of funding and I remain committed to improving culturally relevant classroom instruction so that in the future monitoring will no longer be required. I am impressed with the dedication that Superintendent Douglas is showing in personally resolving this issue so that TUSD can expand culturally relevant courses while complying with state law.”

In January, former schools superintendent John Huppenthal sent TUSD a notice of noncompliance red flagging U.S. history and English classes taught from African-American and Mexican-American perspectives, saying the courses promoted "the overthrow of the United States government, resentment toward a race or class of people," and "advocating ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." TUSD had until March 4 to fix that or the state would penalize the district.

Since then, ADE officials have visited both the classes that were highlighted in the notice of noncompliance and other classrooms in some of TUSD's high schools—Cholla Magnet, Tucson High... 

Teachers have also been having to turn over their lesson plans and all other skeletons of what they intend to use as teaching tools in their classes. They had to do that back in December, too, and a month later the notice of noncompliance arose, without any ADE official ever speaking to the teachers or students.

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