TUSD leaders and students plan to fight for Ethnic Studies program

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If former state schools Superintendent Tom Horne has his way, the Tucson Unified School District will lose $15 million in state funding unless it eliminates its Ethnic Studies classes.

But TUSD leaders and students say they're ready to fight to keep the program alive.

Maribel Gomez is a Junior at Tucson High School. This semester she's taking four Mexican-American studies classes.

"It's got me a lot interested in school more, like I actually pay attention now," said Maribel.

Maribel says the classes don't promote an overthrow of the federal government or resentment toward a race or people both violations of a new law that's intended to get rid of the ethnic studies program.

"These classes are very very informational and that's just crazy that you would want to take out so much information from one class," said Maribel.

"It's a tragedy when that type of environment is placed in a such a precarious position that Mr. Horne is trying to place our program in," said Ethnic Studies teacher Curtis Acosta.

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone agrees. He says data proves the program has helped students reach higher levels of achievement.

"We need to reflect on the ethical and academic responsibility we have to the students that are in this program and to this district as a whole," said Superintendent Pedicone.

It's something district leaders will think about over the next 60 days. That's how long it has to either get rid of the program or file an appeal. If it doesn't eliminate classes, the district could lose up to 10% of its funding, or about $15 million.

"To take another 10% reduction in operational funding as a result of this program or anything else, would be a tremendous difficulty for this district," said Pedicone.

Pedicone says the district will try to prove that the program complies with the law.

Whatever happens, he says he's confident the governing board won't do anything to jeopardize the welfare of students like Maribel.