NATIONAL EXECUTIVE BOARD VOTES TO DEFEND ETHNIC STUDIES IN ARIZONA AND NWU MEMBER RUDOLFO ACUNA

The NWU National Executive Board voted to oppose an Arizona law, House Bill 2281, which threatens ethnic studies classes in the state. The vote took place at the September 25-26 meeting in New York City.

Outgoing Arizona Schools Superintendent Tom Horne drafted the measure after launching vicious public attacks on the ethnic studies program, particularly Mexican-American Studies class of the Tucson Unified School District. Horne, a Republican, is running for Arizona Attorney General...

The NWU National Executive Board voted to oppose an Arizona law, House Bill 2281, which threatens ethnic studies classes in the state. The vote took place at the September 25-26 meeting in New York City.

Outgoing Arizona Schools Superintendent Tom Horne drafted the measure after launching vicious public attacks on the ethnic studies program, particularly Mexican-American Studies class of the Tucson Unified School District. Horne, a Republican, is running for Arizona Attorney General.

A major target of Horne’s attack against the Tucson Unified Mexican-American studies program is NWU member Rodolfo Acuña’s book, Occupied America, which has been used in the program for years. Acuña, whose scholarly work is respected widely in academic circles, is a professor at California State University-Northridge.

The Republican-dominated Arizona Legislature passed the bill this spring and Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed it into law. It takes effect January 1, 2011.

The law would bar public schools in Arizona from offering courses or classes that:

  • Promote the overthrow of the United States Government.

  • Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

  • Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

  • Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.


Tucson Unified officials deny that the ethnic studies programs violate these restrictions, but the state Horne and the Brewer-appointed state Board of Education are charged with making that determination. The Tucson Unified Governing Board has voted to take legal action if the law is applied to the district.

Tucson Unified’s Mexican-American Studies Program, launched in 1998, boasts a high-school graduation rate of 97 percent for program participants, much better than the district-wide average and far better than the national Latino average of 44 percent. Participants go on to attend college at a remarkable rate of 70 percent. The optional program is offered in six Tucson Unified high schools, three middle schools and six elementary schools.

Opponents of HB 2281 are raising funds and plotting strategy for preemptory legal action seeking to block the law from going into effect. The NWU Executive Board voted to oppose this law as an attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech, to authorize NWU President Larry Goldbetter to sign an amicus brief if there is legal action against it, and to urge Larry to ask our parent union, the United Auto Workers union to support such legal action financially if it develops as planned.

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