TUSD Governing Board member Michael Hicks has rescinded his support for the district's Mexican American Studies appeal and called for the elimination of the program.
Hicks said last week that he regrets voting in favor of moving forward with the process and feels he was misled.
The appeal is in response to Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal's finding that the district's Mexican American Studies program is in violation of state law. TUSD now stands to lose millions in state funding if it does not come into compliance.
Hicks has said publicly that he does not believe the courses should satisfy core requirements and would rather see them as electives.
Initially, Hicks voted against filing the appeal but was swayed to change his position after being told that doing so would provide insight into what an acceptable remedy might be.
The Arizona Daily Star spoke with Hicks about his change of heart.
Q: Why have you rescinded your support for filing the appeal?
A: "In my simple mind, I was voting to find out exactly where we were in violation, and how we could fix that. But as I read through the document that explained our position, I see a statement about the law being vague on its face - at that point we were challenging the constitutionality of the law and that's a different issue.
"Questioning the law itself is what I oppose. I didn't vote for that."
Q: Do you have a problem with that because you support the law?
A: "It's not necessarily that I support the law. I don't think it's the duty of the district to start questioning laws that are out there. I think that's the duty of the public."
Q: Why call for the total elimination of the courses?
A: "I honestly believe a lot of the course is good - the concept of the course is good. I honestly believe there are individuals in the department who are not teaching in a manner that I feel it should be taught. Those people are unwilling to consider any changes, so I feel we need to get rid of the entire program.
"The way I want to see an ethnic studies class is, you have American history in the center and then you bring in the perspectives of all ethnicities. If you can make it truly multifaceted, I'm OK with it as an elective."
Q: What have you found most challenging in dealing with this issue?
A: "People making assumptions about me. They call me racist. They say I don't know Tucson and that I need to go to my Foothills home. That hurts, that pisses me off. I don't see race - I want every kid in this district to have the best education we can give them. I've been in this community a long time. I was raised by Randolph Park; I live at Golf Links and Harrison; that's not Foothills. If there's anything I want people to know, it's that I have a genuine commitment to these kids, and I understand the value of a good education."
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175.