TUSD desegregation hearing focuses on Mexican American Studies

At stake this week are the academically compelling Mexican American Studies classes, which include lessons entitled Mathing with Social Justice and The Brown Berets and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense: A Comparative Perspective, which were the main topic of speakers at this evening’s TUSD desegregation hearing.

According to plaintiff sources, the Special Master, Willis Hawley, had intended to have comments sent to him, but his presence was demanded by the DOJ and the District. he sat smugly for the most part smiling every time a pro-Mexican American Studies supporter addressed the panel, which was for the most part all that was addressed by the speakers.

Progressive Congressman and former TUSD Governing Board member Raul Grijalva, sent an emissary to the hearing to plead for the return of the classes. The spokesperson told the august panel that Hispanic children need “culturally relevant” classes. He said that there was a link between student success and the MAS classes. “These successes, which would have been impossible without the MAS curriculum, can and should be repeated.” The classes have been successful in creating a jobs program for Grijalva acolytes for years and just this past year, Grijalva staff used the TUSD network and resources of the District to promote his political campaign.

A Tucson High School teacher, also claimed that the District is hiding the Cabrerra Report. She and other speakers claimed that the Caberra Report shows that the classes were successful. The report, which was reviewed by education experts has been called into question because the performance comparison is skewed because the “percentage of identified special education students in the non-MAS control group is significantly higher…in some cases more than double…the percentage of Special Education students in the MAS group.”

Cabrerra Report percentages of Special Education students in the samples for each year:

Year MAS Non-MAS
1 10.2 15.6
2 10.2 21.3
3 11.4 18.8
4 9.5 20.8

The usual pro-MAS speakers did make an appearance including Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodriguez Rodriguez. He began his speech scolding the panel saying, “we are asking for dialogue not a monologue.” He failed to mention that the MAS supporters were invited to have a dialogue by Governing Board member Miguel Cuevas and they refused.

Cintli then launched into a rambling speech on the issue of the desegregation funds, but failed to mention beforehand that many of those monies have made their way into his personal pocket through the sales of his book, The X in La Raza, as required reading for some of Tucson High’s MAS classes. He also failed to mention that for years the University’s staff and friends made money off of their books which were purchased with desegregation funds and handed out to teachers who participated in the Transformative Education summer seminars. Those seminars were a joint effort between the University of Arizona and TUSD.

Cam Juarez, newly elected member of the TUSD Governing Board, told the panel “we had some insight meeting with you today.” He stated that he got his undergrad degree in MAS, and then got a “masters degree in urban planning with high grades,” and urged that MAS classes be brought back. He insisted that the Cabrerra Report be disseminated to the public.

One older man who identified himself as a member of the Tohono O’Odham Tribe said, “This is not Aztlan this is Chuk Shon. This is O’Odham land. Of all of the ethnic groups why are we being excluded from this plan we are being excluded from justice. My people are not being served when the state Legislature deliberately removes of our history, it is deliberate ethnic cleansing.”

Native American Studies curriculum is required by state law, and the state Legislature and Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal just instituted requirements for native language learning.

Another woman said that she “didn’t mean to sound touchy feely, but we should focus on teachers who build relationships with children and have less focus on teacher certification.” Many of the MAS teachers were not certified to teach in classrooms for many years.

John Kromko, who spent 14 years in the Legislature, told the panel that “the problem with this case is that no one is responsible. If I were a district and I would keep getting millions of dollars every year because it was not integrated, I would not solve the problem. The judge needs to get rid the reverse incentive. They need an incentive to be held responsible,” said Kronko referring to the billion dollars that has been spent over the past 30 years for the purposes of desegregating the District.

Former TUSD administrator, Richard Gastellum, said he wanted to address some concerns, “I went to the uof a game this past Friday I was elated to see the number of kids of color in the student section,” referring to what he believed was the success the District has had in sending students to the University of Arizona. “I read the plan. I am concerned about the number of directors called for by the plan.” He then read the long list of new directors.” Granted you may need all these people to get this plan going but we need to get the money in the classroom,” he concluded.

Lillian Fox, a former teacher at Cholla High School, told the panel that “the lack of books for minority students” is a problem and they are “more likely to have subs.” She explained that while she was teaching at Sabino, “As a science teacher I had kids read from the books every night and we had no problem with reading scores. At Cholla the kids only had class books. We no longer have math books, we no longer have chemistry books.” She alone summed up the concerns the majority of the desegregation plaintiffs have expressed for years .

Richard Martinez, the lawyer for Save Ethnic Studies, complained that “Hawley failed to be specific. You have failed to take the courage, the courageous act required to spell out that which is required from the school district.” Pro-MAS activists had wanted Hawley to specifically require that the MAS classes be reinstated. They are concerned that both Judge Tashima will find the state’s action regarding the classes was in fact constitutional and that their only hope to keep the classes is through a specific order by Judge Bury to reinstate the classes. Hawley is Judge Bury’s court appointed expert on the desegregation case.

The meeting was essentially a pro-MAS rally, with students who identified themselves as “academic warriors”  in the crowd of about 135.  Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night at El Pueblo Regional Center, 101 W. Irvington Road, and Wednesday at Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega. Each forum will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

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