UPDATE: now the TUSD has apparently backpedaled from its earlier procedural vote. This post has been amended to reflect the new backtracking, which reflects the old intransigence. Ah, the fun never ends in Tucson… (See Jeff Biggers’s story for a post-meeting breakdown.)
UPDATE II: It now appears that even the board members are having difficulty figuring out what exactly they voted for, with multiple interpretations from supports and detractors of MAS on the political and legal significance of the double vote on two ambiguously worded motions. Please see this helpful, though necessarily complicated, analysis of the aftermath at Tucson Weekly. The takeaway is that these issues are still unresolved and will be picked up when the new board resumes work next year, and the position of the federal desegregation plan on ethnic studies courses is finalized. The fact that this one meeting has elicited so many multiple interpretations and confusing conjectures is a testament to how polarizing this issue still is!
This week, the Tucson Unified School District–where so many of the battles over Mexican American studies have been fought out in recent months–showed signs that it was finally relenting just a little in its zealous campaign to resist the community’s efforts to resist the dismantling of its groundbreaking ethnic studies movement. Or did it?
Mainly it appeared to be a routine voting procedure that would set the district’s “unitary status plan”–part of a process of compliance with a longstanding desegregation consent decree for Tucson schools.
Tucson Weekly reported on what appeared to be a subtle shift that surfaced in two votes, both related to a resolution that opposed the inclusion of Mexican American Studies courses in the core curriculum:
Stegeman then brought the second motion regarding the objections; namely, the objection that the TUSD legal team filed last month against the MAS classes being returned as core curriculum classes for literature and social studies.
That resolution was defeated 3-2, with Grijalva, Cuevas and Alexandre Sugiyama voting no, and Michael Hicks and Stegeman voting yes.
But later, after most people in the board room left for the evening — it was a long board meeting that went past 11 p.m. after a long executive session — Stegeman brought the second motion on the objections up for a revote. Hicks asked to go into executive session and when the board came out the second motion returned to the board. This time, the board’s vote against the objections was unanimous — 5-0 against, with Hicks and Stegeman changing their vote.
Regarding the first vote, Campoy told the Range it was important became of the message it sends to Bury. “The court is going to know that the vote was 5-0, because let’s say it was a 3-2 vote or split, it wouldn’t have been as strong,” she said. “It’s much more likely the judge is going to back us.”
D. A. Morales at Three Sonorans quickly pointed to the vote as a win for pro-ethnic studies activists:
At tonight’s board meeting, Mark Stegeman moved that the District oppose this section. After it went up for a vote, Grijalva, Cuevas and Sugiyama voted NO, with Hicks joining with Stegeman; a clear racial divide if any.
What does this mean?
In a nutshell, it means that TUSD will stop opposing the return of MAS (or MAS-like classes under a different name) and thus MAS and Bilingual Education will be returning to TUSD in Fall 2013.
The WAR against MAS now ends *within TUSD* with the Peace Treaty known as Unitary Status Plan, but it is still up to us to rebuild what was destroyed after the weapons of MAS destruction were dropped upon Tucson.
However: The second measure ultimately proved to be largely symbolic as well as confusing–and shortly afterwards the TUSD clarified that it still opposed the inclusion of MAS in the core curriculum. Ultimately, the future of Mexican American Studies will effectively hinge on the decisions of the new incoming board. Biggers quoted local activist Miguel Ortega:
So long as our community continues to work from a position of barrio self-determination, so long as we continue to push our newly elected board members to find the courage to use their voices and advocate, so long as we as community members continue to resist a draconian vision for our kids’ future, 2013 will be the year the Mexican American Studies program returns to Tucson for good.
So in the end it was alas, too early to celebrate. Nonetheless, Three Sonorans didn’t see the harm in tooting the horn of the activists who are finally getting some vindication of their indefatigable organizing work on behalf of Tucson’s youth and students in every community across the country who care about building a more inclusive and just education system. Watch the clip of the meeting through to the end, when the dryness of the board’s parliamentary procedures concludes with a bit of hearty MAS cheer.
For more on the struggle to protect Mexican American Studies, see more posts in our series, Saving Ethnic Studies.