Horne: TUSD is violating new law banning ethnic studies

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PHOENIX -- Just hours before leaving office, outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is telling the Tucson Unified School District to make some changes or risk losing millions of dollars in funding.

Horne says the district is violating a new law that bans certain ethnic studies programs.

The law went into effect on Jan. 1, and prohibits classes that promote resentment against a race or class of people, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote the overthrow of the U.S. government. It bans programs that are essentially designed for students who belong to a particular ethnic group.

At issue is Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American studies program.

While Horne says the classes violate the law, the district argues the opposite, saying the program is meant to help Latino students learn how to overcome adversity and make a positive impact on society.

The district has 60 days to either scrap the program or file an appeal. At this point, it plans to appeal.

Nearly $15 million in state funding is on the line. That's 10 percent of the funding TUSD receives from the state.

After his 9:45 a.m. new conference, Horne, who has been looking at the TUSD program for years, will officially leave his current post to take over as attorney general.

The new law, House Bill 2281, allows the superintendent to unilaterally decide if a district is violating the law and withhold up to 10 percent of its state funding. The law does give the district an opportunity to appeal. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the HB 2281, which Horne had wanted for three years, in May.

The structure of the law means incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, who will be sworn in at noon today, will make the ultimate decision. He has not yet said where he stands.