MALDEF JOINS IN FILING DRAFT PLAN TO DESEGREGATE AND IMPROVE EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT FOR LATINO STUDENTS IN TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Latino-focused Curriculum Important Part of Plan
TUCSON, AZ – On November 9, 2012, MALDEF joined in filing a draft plan with the federal District Court in Fisher, et al., Mendoza, et al. v. Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), that is a blueprint for improving educational outcomes for Latino students and is intended to resolve a longstanding desegregation lawsuit against the District. The draft plan, called a unitary status plan, was jointly filed by TUSD; the Fisher plaintiffs on behalf of African American students; the United States Department of Justice; MALDEF, on behalf of the Mendoza plaintiffs who are Latino students; and the Court-appointed Special Master, Dr. Willis Hawley, tasked with developing the Plan.
The draft plan provides a mandate for TUSD to: 1) increase racially and ethnically integrated schools; 2) improve magnet schools and programs to promote integration and educational quality; 3) enhance the racial and ethnic diversity of TUSD's administrators, teachers and staff; 4) improve the academic achievement of Latino students; 5) reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the administration of student discipline; 6) increase family and community engagement in schools; and, 7) establish a data collection and tracking system to track students' academic progress, among other things.
Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel stated, "There remains much work to be done so that TUSD provides equal opportunity to all of its students. All of those interested in achieving that goal should support the plan, including the full reincorporation of ethnic studies."
An integral element of the plan is the restoration of culturally relevant curriculum that reflects the history, experiences and culture of the Mexican American community. These courses, to be offered at all high schools and at all grade levels, are fundamental to improving Latino student engagement and closing the achievement gap for Latino students.
Nancy Ramirez, MALDEF Western Regional Counsel, stated, "This comprehensive and ambitious plan targets the elimination of vestiges of discrimination against Latino students who comprise 61% of the TUSD population. The restoration and expansion of literature and social studies courses that focus on Mexican American experiences recognizes the important role these courses play in engaging students and improving their academic achievement and graduation rates and is a critical strategy for closing the achievement gap for Latino students."
Lois Thompson of Proskauer Rose LLP serves as pro bono counsel with MALDEF in this action.
Three public forums to receive public comments on the plan are scheduled for November 26, 27 and 28, 2012, at several schools in TUSD. For additional details on the public forums (English and Spanish versions) click here for “Notice of Proposed Desegregation/Unitary Status Plan and Public Opportunity for Comment"
Public comments on the plan can also be provided electronically directly to the Special Master at comments@TucsonUSP.com. Public comments must be received by November 28, 2012. Copies of the plan are available in English and Spanish at www.TucsonUSP.com and at the main office of every TUSD school.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.