The notice of noncompliance
John Huppenthal sent out to TUSD on his last day as Arizona's superintendent of schools Jan. 2, saying some of the district's culturally relevant classes violated state law, is still on the table. But school district Superintendent H.T. Sanchez says Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas is willing to collaborate to soon put the issue to rest.
Sanchez and Douglas met for an hour and a half in Phoenix today to chat about TUSD's culturally relevant curriculum, and specifically about the U.S. history and English from a Mexican-American and African American perspective classes that are reportedly in violation of HB 2281—the Jan Brewer statute that outlawed TUSD's Mexican American Studies program about two years ago.
The meeting went so well, according to Sanchez, Douglas even invited him to join an advisory committee that'll work to implement studies on the contributions Latinos have made to Arizona and the rest of the country into the state's Common Core Standards, or College and Career Ready Standards.
"I don't feel that the state agency (Arizona Department of Education) wants to shut down our program, but wants to take a look at how we can work together and address any concerns...with the law (HB 2281) that is in the 9th Circuit right now. Until that case is done, the law is the law," Sanchez said during a press conference this afternoon at Utterback Magnet Middle School. "If her desire was to eliminate ethnic studies in TUSD, she would not have invited me to serve in a committee that is going to (create) instructional standards that provide the perspective of Latinos into the state curriculum."
Now, it's all about opening the classroom doors to members of the state Department of Education, show them what is going on, the materials being taught, so that trust and communication can be rebuilt. All of that will hopefully lead to the state not cutting TUSD's funding (if the district doesn't fix whatever the state doesn't like in the next two months, they face losing 10 percent of the state's monthly aid).
Sanchez said he isn't concerned—and a big chunk of that is because he knows his district is not teaching hatred and instigating students to overthrow the government, which is what Huppenthal alleges.
"(In the classroom), you see students that are eager to learn, you see teachers who love their kids and love teaching, and that is the best thing that could happen to us is have them come in and see what we do, meet our kids, meet our teachers, understand their passion, to understand what they are trying to put forward to the students, and I'm not opposed to an open dialogue," he said.
In regards to whether Douglas likes or dislikes these culturally relevant classes, Sanchez said that during the talk, Douglas suggested all TUSD schools should offer them rather than just a handful—surprised?
But keep in mind that just because Douglas is not going after the content of the classes itself, it all is safe. The tables have turned to looking at how the content is being taught, and who knows if the teachers are going to be willing to modify their procedures and the relationship they have with their students to comply with the state.