On Thursday, December 20, our host Tony Castaneda spoke with Dr. Roberto Rodriguez from Arizona.They speak about the controversy surrounding the Mexican American Studies program ban, and Dr. Rodriguez’ involvement with the issue.
In 2011, a law took effect in Arizona, banning the Mexican American studies programs and ethnic studies classes in K-12 schools in the Tucson Unified School District. The ban was intended for classes that “promote racial resentment” and “encourage ethnic solidarity.” The law was met with opposition and protests. However, the Mexican American studies program is actually a part of a “federal desegregation court order” from thirty years ago, and is still in effect. This federal order would rule over the recent state law.
Dr. Rodriguez points that the same politicians that were involved with Arizona’s highly controversial immigration law, were also involved with the ethnic studies ban. “It’s very much related to the whole immigration crisis. It’s the same politicians, literally, identically, it’s all the same people,” he says. He notes that Russell Pierce, the author of the anti-immigrant bill, has actually since been recalled.
Explains Dr. Rodriguez, “The federal courts have been supervising Tucson Unified School District since 1978… A 1974 lawsuit was filed, the Fisher-Mendoza lawsuit, and it calls for desegregation. And one of the few things Tucson was doing right was the Mexican-American studies program. And of course, that’s what they went after. And the federal government was giving the school district $62 million a year, and probably less than 1% was going to desegregation… And then [the district] supposedly got out of supervision a year ago, but a judge got a hold of it and said ‘no, Tucson is still not in the best of shape.’” Thus, the district still falls under the supervision of the federal courts.
All parties involved in the lawsuit have come together and jointly agreed on a plan that forwards the desegregation cause, “the plan calls for the expansion of Mexican American and African American culturally relevant classes to every high school in the district, and to middle schools and elementary schools.”
Dr. Rodriguez says, “We’ve won. We’ve won a massive victory.”
Listen to the entire interview here: