Pedicone asks for delay on ethnic studies vote

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District says he has asked the president of the district's Governing Board to delay a vote scheduled for Tuesday night on proposed changes to the Ethnic Studies program in the district.

The Tucson Police Department had already blocked Tenth Street in front of the TUSD headquarters by midday Tuesday for security purposes.

Superintendent John Pedicone says there is a "great deal of misperception and miscommunication" about the reason for the proposed changes.

The board was scheduled to discuss and vote on a proposal from Board President Dr. Mark Stegeman to change the controversial program from being "core" to "elective".

The program came under attack in 2009 from then Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne who called it "racist" and said the courses taught students how to be radicals.  That came shortly after the program hosted Latina activist Delores Huerta at Tucson High School who told students during an assembly that "Republicans hate you".  Horne is a Republican. 

Horne was successful in getting legislation passed in 2010 making the program illegal under Arizona law.  That bill was signed by Governor Jan Brewer, also a Republican.

Horne was elected Arizona Attorney General in 2010, but shortly before taking that office, invokved a clause in the new law declaring TUSD was in violation of the law.

Last week, students from the program stormed the TUSD meeting room minutes before the start of a scheduled Governing Board meeting and chained themselves to board member chairs to disrupt the meeting.  It worked.  The meeting was cancelled until tonight.

In his statement, Pedicone said, "It is my concern that in the current atmosphere, created by events outside of our control, the opportunity to have this productive dialogue is compromised."

The controversy following Dr. Stegeman to a lecture he was giving this morning at the University of Arizona when several UA students infiltrated his scheduled economics lecture and shouted questions to him about his opposition to the program.

The district is awaiting an "audit" of whether or not the program is in compliance with the new state law.  The investigation is being conducted by an independent company from out of state.  Some are arguing any proposed changes to the program should come only after the results are released.