Arizona Ethnic Studies Program Does Not Promote Resentment Towards Whites, Audit Says

A program that promotes acceptance of multiple ethnicities or one that foments resentment toward whites?

An audit by the Dallas-based Cambium Learning Group found the program in Tucson, Arizona, which was attacked by a state schools official, to be the former -- and showed no evidence of the latter.

Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said earlier this week that the Tucson Unified School District's ethnic studies program violated the law because it advocated ethnic solidarity among Latinos promoted resentment toward white people. He said the districted risked losing $15 million in state funding if it didn't terminate the program in two months.

But the 120-page audit said that assessment was baseless.

"The auditors observed the opposite, as students are taught to be accepting of multiple ethnicities of people," the audit read. "Teachers are teaching César Chávez alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi, all as peaceful protesters who sacrificed for people and ideas they believed in."

The audit said that "all ethnicities are welcomed into the program" and that "all evidence points to peace as the essence for program teachings."

"Resentment does not exist in the context of these courses," auditors wrote.

Huppenthal, a Republican, voted for the new law when he was a state senator and ordered the audit when he took over as schools superintendent. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law in May 2010 and it went into effect Dec. 31.

"Reviewed materials present only one perspective of historical events -- that of the Latino people being persecuted, oppressed and subjugated by the `hegemony' -- otherwise known in this material as white America," Huppenthal said at Wednesday's news conference. "I find there is substantial evidence of a clear violation."

Huppenthal's spokesman, Andrew LeFevre, said Friday that Huppenthal was not immediately available for comment because he was in an Arizona Board of Regents meeting all day.

Huppenthal told The Arizona Republic on Thursday that he probably "should have been more clear" when describing the evidence used to make his finding.

LeFevre said the auditors gathered information during "limited classroom observations and onsite interviews," rather than from a profusion of text materials collected by a separate, intensive investigation by the education department that spanned several months.

LeFevre said that Huppenthal "used the totality of the information and facts gathered during the months-long investigation to make his final determination."

Among the ethnic studies program materials that Huppenthal said were in violation of the state law included passages such as:

"We will now see the real forces behind this so-called `manifest destiny.' We will see how half of Mexico was ripped off by trickery and violence," according to a quote from a source called "American History from a Chicana/o Perspective," provided by the department.

"In the process of being colonized, we were robbed of land and other resources," according to the quote. "We were murdered and lynched."

Auditors reported that the materials they looked at during their visits did not violate the law, but said that the district's governing board should start looking at supplemental materials for the program and decide whether to approve them. The board currently only approves "basic text materials," the audit said.

The auditors said they visited every school in the district with ethnic studies classes and sat in on them in pairs. They said all visits were unannounced, and that "there was no resistance whatsoever to the audit team."

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent John Pedicone said Friday that the district board already is working on providing more oversight for course materials.

He said he got a copy of the audit Thursday night and thought it was "really interesting that it seems to contradict what Huppenthal" has said.

He said the board was meeting Friday to discuss its course of action.

"(The audit) is really what the district's position has been," he said. "You're looking at a fairly significant audit that took place over the course of three weeks. I think you have to take that to heart."

Pedicone has said that the district can't afford to take a $15 million financial hit. "It'd be devastating."

Sixty percent of the district's 13,000 students are Hispanic, and 647 students in all were in the ethnic studies program last school year. About 90 percent of the program's students are Hispanic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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