ETHNIC-STUDIES AUDIT FINDINGS LOST IN TRANSLATION
Two days after Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal issued his determination that the Tucson Unified School District is out of compliance with the anti-ethnic- studies law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year, 11 ethnic-studies teachers held a press conference to urge the media to take a closer look at an audit of the Mexican-American studies program.
The audit, commissioned by Huppenthal himself, contradicts his finding that the Mexican-American studies program is in violation of the law.
Chicano-literature teacher Curtis Acosta said the audit vindicated the program and confirmed what ethnic-studies supporters have said all along: The classes help students do better in school and increase graduation rates. The audit's findings may be why Huppenthal delayed the release of his determination for several weeks.
When asked about Huppenthal's criticism of the audit—specifically, that the teachers were told when auditors would be visiting their classrooms—Acosta said teachers would never change lessons or styles for auditors or any other visitors.
"That would be disrespectful of our families and the families of the students who send their children to our classrooms," Acosta said.
Acosta said the TUSD administration first told the teachers that the team from Cambium Learning Group would visit during AIMS testing week, but auditors never showed up. It wasn't until the week after AIMS that auditors started visiting classrooms.
Acosta said the teachers want TUSD administrators to support the program and "not run away from it and not find a middle ground of compromise, when obviously, we don't need any compromise. ... This program is working as is."
Almost three hours after the press conference, the TUSD governing board came out of a two-hour executive session to vote on a request from TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone to allow him to ask for a hearing to appeal Huppenthal's decision and get clearer direction from the state.
The final vote was 4-1, with board president Mark Stegeman voting no. However, before that, a contentious meeting took place, with the first vote ending in a 2-2 tie, with board member Michael Hicks and Stegeman voting no, Judy Burns and Adelita Grijalva voting yes, and Miguel Cuevas abstaining.
It took a plea from Pedicone, and a yes vote from Hicks and Cuevas to allow the district to hire outside council to file the hearing request, to get to the eventual 4-1 vote.
While most governing-board members don't issue press releases to explain votes, Hicks did so on Sunday, June 19, explaining that his vote was meant to help the district get clarification on options to bring the district into compliance with the law.
"Realizing that the board was hung at (a) 2-2 vote, my concern was that the violation would not be resolved over the summer," Hicks wrote. He said he plans to instruct Pedicone to return to the board in the next couple of weeks with options to put TUSD in compliance.
Hicks also said he wants to see Mexican-American studies classes offered as electives rather than as classes that count toward core-curriculum requirements.
It looks like the fireworks are over before the Fourth of July in this year's race for Tucson mayor: More than half of the candidates who filed for the office have been kicked off the ballot.
Barring a successful write-in campaign, only Democrat Jonathan Rothschild and the winner of a Green Party primary will be on the November ballot.
The first candidate to go was Marshall Home, who was running as a Democrat, even though he'd registered as a member of the party days after filing paperwork to run back in March. You can't really call Home a Republican, either, since he says he doesn't care about such distinctions, because the entire system is fraudulent. Home, who has trademarked his name and seems to be making a habit of claiming repossessed houses, is way out on the fringe.
Last Thursday, June 16, Home asked a judge if he could just quit the race to avoid being taken off the ballot due to the fact that Home doesn't spend most nights within the city limits.
Before he dropped out, Home did manage to take up quite a bit of court time, between unsuccessfully challenging Rothschild's eligibility on a strange "separation of powers" argument that included accusing Rothschild of being an unregistered British agent (along with all of his fellow lawyers), and a 3 1/2-hour sprawling—and occasionally nonsensical—defense of his eligibility to run.
Oddly enough, Home did have enough signatures to actually run for mayor—which is more than you can say for the other three candidates who left the mayor's race last week. Republicans Shaun McClusky and Ron Asta and independent Pat Darcy all failed to turn in the minimum number of valid signatures and were kicked off the ballot by a judge.
After the big wipeout, Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers derided the gang of would-be candidates for their "stunning show of incompetence."
"It is pretty stunning that people who want to run for office can't get the signatures themselves or that they have such a low level of support that they can't get them," Rogers says. "It's just not that hard."
McClusky announced he was withdrawing his candidacy before a Tuesday court hearing, but attorney Bill Risner, who filed the lawsuit to disqualify McClusky, argued that it was too late to keep the case from moving forward. McClusky didn't return a phone call before deadline, but some politicos were speculating that he tried to withdraw to preserve his chances of running as a write-in candidate.
But Rogers said that once a candidate turns in petitions to run for office, they are subject to Arizona's "sore loser" law, which prohibits candidates who don't win primaries or don't make the ballot from launching write-in campaigns.
McClusky, who apologized in a statement for letting down his supporters by failing to get enough valid signatures, blamed Rogers for quashing democracy itself.
"Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers and the local political machine he heads have chosen, and show every indication of continuing to choose, legal means to bully, intimidate and financially damage any and all candidates in these elections with the exception of their own hand-picked representatives, and to this point it's clear that their tactics have succeeded admirably," McClusky said in his press release.
As much as McClusky wants to blame Rogers, the Pima County Democrats didn't have anything to do with Asta getting kicked off the ballot. In fact, Republican Lori Oien, who is a big supporter of McClusky's campaign, helped eliminate Asta.
Asta got KO'ed by Jessica Reeves Foster, whose sister was killed when Asta crashed into the pickup truck she was driving in 1994. Foster doesn't think much of Asta and joined forces with a cousin, Nicolle Callahan, to file a lawsuit challenging Asta's petitions.
Foster says it felt "awesome" to win her case against Asta.
"I got my day in court," she said. "Justice prevailed. The law is the law. ... It felt good to be involved in being the last foot in the butt kicking him off."
Foster tells us that she got a lot of help from others, including Oien, who ran for the Tucson City Council four years ago and was backing McClusky this year. Oien did not return a call as of press time.
Asta says he's disappointed he won't be able to run.
"I feel bad," he says. "We're going to have a campaign now for the major leader of this valley without a debate, without a contest. ... That's not a good thing, and I'm sorry about the fact that I contributed to that."