State schools superintendent Tom Horne said he came to Tucson today to learn about TUSD's ethnic studies offerings.

Instead Horne held a brief news conference inside the state's Department of Education office reiterating criticism he's leveled against the district and the programs for years while more than 200 protesters chanted outside.

The unusual circumstances of Horne's Tucson trip started early in the day when more than 300 students marched out of class to district headquarters to protest what was being touted on Internet social networking sites as his coming here to shut down TUSD's ethnic studies programs. Many of the protesters made their way to the complex of state offices where Horne had his news conference this afternoon.

TUSD officials canceled the meeting early in the day, saying Horne had turned it into a political event.

Horne, a Republican candidate for state Attorney General, denied doing so at his news conference. Horne said he merely wanted to meet with TUSD to learn about all of the ethnic study programs it offers. TUSD offers courses in African American, Latino, Native American and Pan-Asian studies.

Horne is a longtime critic of the programs and he pushed legislation targeting ethnic studies that was signed Tuesday by Gov. Jan Brewer.

The law says students "should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people."

The law makes it illegal for public schools to have any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

It also bars any programs "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group."

TUSD officials who reviewed the legislation have said nothing they are doing in the program violates the new law. It takes effect at the end of the year.

The final decision on whether a school program violates the law is to be determined by the state Board of Education or the state school superintendent.

Horne said today that he plans to continue to pressure TUSD to end its ethnic studies programs.