In tonight's final round of public testimony at Tucson's historic three forums on the proposed "Unitary Status Plan," the federally arranged desegregation agreement between Mexican American and African American plaintiffs and the Tucson Unified School District, the voices of one community desperately need to be heard by the court-appointed "Special Master" and rest of the nation: Tucson's youth.
"In order for these court-ordered district changes to be genuine, sustainable, and transformative," concludes a new statement released by an alliance of student and youth activists, "students and community members must be engaged in meaningful ways at every level of the process."
Few other participants understand and have carried the burden of TUSD's national disgrace over banning Mexican American Studies better than Tucson's youth.
Among the nearly 7,000 students served by the nationally acclaimed but now dismantled Mexican American Studies program, recognized by recent studies for its higher graduation rates, test scores and civic engagement and hailed by educational experts as "the nation's most innovative and successful academic and instructional program in Ethnic Studies at the secondary school level," they have been demonized by extremist state politicians in a bizarre witch hunt for sheer election gain, and dismissed by patronizing TUSD officials; they have witnessed the firing and persecution of their beloved teachers, and had their Mexican American Studies literature and history curricula and books confiscated from their classrooms.
Throughout Arizona's manufactured crisis over Ethnic Studies, Tucson's youth have been in the forefront of engaging in dialogue and discussion, galvanizing an enduring new civil rights movement, and carrying on a legacy "to restore respect, justice, and equity in our educational experience and school district."
"As a collective, as students and alumni (Chicano Literature After School Studies program, Tucson High and U of A MEChA, and UNIDOS)," Mexican American Studies alumni and UNIDOS activist Danny Montoya noted, "we held a forum on the Unitary Status Plan, and out of the suggestions of the community, along with our input, we drafted this document--Declaration of Intellectual Warriors--to present to the Special Master and the plaintiffs."
Here's a copy of the document:
Declaration of Intellectual Warriors
November 26, 2012
Chicano Literature After School Studies program
Tucson High M.E.Ch.A
University of Arizona M.E.CH.A
Declaration of Intellectual Warriors
Dear Special Master Hawley,
We, the youth belonging to the Chicano Literature After School Studies program (C.L.A.S.S.), Tucson High M.E.Ch.A, University of Arizona M.E.CH.A, and U.N.I.D.O.S., along with community input, collectively submit the following response addressing the proposed TUSD Unitary Status Plan:
Restoration of Mexican American Studies
The new Mexican American Indigenous Studies program must be built on the foundation of the previous program that had demonstrated quantitative and qualitative measures of success. Therefore, the implementation of the Mexican American Indigenous Studies program and the other Ethnic Studies Programs must take budgetary priority over the implementation of the Multicultural Program.
Expansion of Ethnic Studies
With the expansion and implementation of the new Mexican American Indigenous Studies and African American Studies, we demand that Native American, Asian American, and Middle Eastern American Studies be included in the plan. Core level curriculum will be essential for these courses. We believe that all ethnic groups should have a chance to develop their cultural identity by learning the contributions their people have made in the United States, as well as their experiences in this country.
Core vs. Elective
All Ethnic Studies course must be considered as core English and core Social Studies classes, as opposed to Elective credits.
Women’s Studies and LGBTQ Studies (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer)
In every section of the Ethnic Studies curriculum there will be an emphasis on the perspective and contributions regarding gender, women, and the LGBTQ community.
It is imperative that all of the Ethnic Studies programs be expanded to all learning levels. We reaffirm the decision to expand the programs from K-12 grade levels and expect that the newly developed African American, Native American, Asian American, and Middle Eastern American courses be held to the same standard.
The position of Coordinator of Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Pedagogy needs to be changed to a Director’s position. In addition, there should be multiple directors (i.e., one representing Latino, and one representing African American Studies), with each Director having appropriate teaching experience in the field of study s/he will be directing, and each reflecting the ethnic background of the community s/he serves.
Public Hiring of Directors
The hiring process of the Directors of Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Pedagogy must include representatives of the community who are former Ethnic Studies students and teachers because of their unique expertise and experience with culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy. These community members must also have decision-making power in the hiring of the directors.
Community Decision-making Power
To ensure grassroots participation, we demand the creation of a community committee with formal representatives and full voting powers be established, that takes part in the following areas and decisions:
The hiring process of the Directors of Culturally Responsive Curriculum and Pedagogy, and other staff.
And Overall USP Implementation and Accountability
The district must ensure formal representation, with full voting powers, to:
Former MAS teacher
Each program Director (i.e. Mexican American Indigenous, African American, Native American, Asian American, and Middle Eastern Studies) must have the authority to name her/his corresponding program as s/he sees fit in reflecting the cultural relevance of the curriculum.
Capacity for new classes
A course involving culturally relevant pedagogy must be available at every high school. As enrollment demands indicate the need for additional courses, additional courses must be established. The establishment of an Ethnic Studies Class shall be determined by the number of students requesting the class, not by the set number of previously established classes. The number of students in a class should not exceed thirty students; allowing more than thirty students in one class is detrimental to the learning environment.
The Unitary Status Plan must promote a pedagogy and curriculum that is free from censorship. Teachers must have the freedom to teach all aspects of the literature and history called for in the curriculum.
English Language Learners (ELL)
The Unitary Status Plan must limit the segregation of ELLs to no more than two hours per day. Interaction between ELLs and their English-speaking peers promotes ELLs' acquisition of English and fosters a shared sense of community among all students, while extended segregation creates social divisions and restricts ELLs' opportunities to acquire English in real-world situations.
Dual Language Programs
The Unitary Status Plan must also recognize and include Dual Language (DL) classes as Advanced Learning Experiences. Dual Language programs provide academic enrichment and offer the same kind of rigorous and challenging instruction found in GATE and IB programs. Moreover, DL programs have a greater capacity to serve ELLs and are more likely to positively affect a significant portion of the ELL population.
Students guilty of minor infractions shall not be subject to removal from class as a part of their punishment, whether through in-school suspensions or out-of-school suspensions. Humiliation and demeaning disciplinary tactics must be prohibited.
Restorative Practices must be used as stated in the Unitary Status Plan in order to promote accountability, while building a healthy, positive, constructive, and supportive school environment for every student. TUSD must not resort to police, border patrol, or Juvenile Hall as means of disciplinary action.
TUSD is responsible for the providing school bus transportation for all students. Students must be provided with school buses before and after school. Providing students with public transportation vouchers is an inadequate form of transportation. The use of public transportation extends the travel time from students, taking time from their studies.
Equal Time in Class
All schools of equivalent educational levels need to be in the classroom for the same amount of time. Decreasing any schools meeting time creates disparities in the quality of education a student receives.
No School Closures
TUSD proposes school closures that are disproportionately targeting Southside and Westside area schools. This negatively impacts working class, students of color, and their families and communities. It is impossible for TUSD to implement a Unitary Status Plan if it finds solutions in closing down our schools. We ask that the USP clearly state that no school closures are acceptable.
Supervising of the Implementation of the Unitary Status Plan
Students enrolled in TUSD schools and Ethnic Studies courses must have the same right as other community members to play an active role in monitoring the district’s implementation of the Unitary Status Plan. Their active participation in the monitoring process will be a key factor in keeping TUSD in compliance with the Unitary Status Plan.
As students, we are clear that in order for these court-ordered district changes to be genuine, sustainable, and transformative, students and community members must be engaged in meaningful ways at every level of the process. To restore respect, justice, and equity in our educational experience and school district, we ask for the full integration of our student demands in your Unitary Status Plan.
Mr. Hawley, we, the students await a detailed response to all our points above.
With Gratitude & Sincerity,
Chicano Literature After School Studies program,
Tucson High M.E.Ch.A,
University of Arizona M.E.CH.A,