PHOENIX -- Arizona's schools chief ordered that a portion of a Tucson school district's state money be cut off after he issued a decision Friday that the district's ethnic studies program violated state law.
The decision by Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal mirrored his findings in June that the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American Studies program violated state law. It also carried out his earlier threat to withhold 10 percent of the district's monthly state aid until it follows the law.
Huppenthal's office said the district receives more than $1 million per month.
"The assertion that (the district's) Mexican-American Studies program was designed and implemented only to promote cultural diversity and a greater understanding of the role of Mexican Americans in this nation is inaccurate and incomplete," Huppenthal said in a statement.
The district appealed Huppenthal's earlier findings, and an administrative law judge in December upheld the decision by the schools chief. The judge ruled that the program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.
The district has 30 days to appeal the ruling in Superior Court. District spokeswoman Cara Rene said the TUSD's governing board will discuss the matter Tuesday and decide whether to comply or file an appeal.
Huppenthal said that it's healthy to discuss past injustices against a group of people in an accurate and balanced way, but that a troubling theme emerged from the program's materials and lesson plans that the white majority continues to oppress the Latino minority.
"Education programs should never teach children to resent or hate or feel victimized by another group of people for any reason, let alone simply because of certain individuals' ethnicity and skin color," Huppenthal said.
The scrutiny of the ethnic studies program escalated shortly after Arizona's heavily criticized immigration enforcement law was passed in April 2010.
The program's supporters have called challenges to the courses an attack on the state's Hispanic population, while critics say the program demonizes white people as oppressors of Hispanics.
Huppenthal ordered a review of the program when he took office in January after his predecessor, Tom Horne, said the Mexican-American Studies program violated state law and that Huppenthal would have to decide whether to withhold funding.
Huppenthal, a Republican, had voted in favor of the ethnic studies law as a state senator before becoming the state's schools chief.
An outside audit praised the program as promoting peace and racial harmony and found no evidence that the district's program promotes racial tension. Huppenthal had said he thought the classrooms were warned that the auditors would be there and that the findings weren't an accurate depiction of the program.