Los Angeles, CA—The Ethnic Studies Now Coalition is prepared to defend the ethnic studies initiative and is mobilizing its community base to the June 9th LAUSD Board Meeting at 2:00 p.m. The Ethnic Studies Now Coalition is the grassroots organization that is responsible for organizing the campaign to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement in LAUSD. The historic initiative was passed last November 18, 2014 at a packed school board meeting that included hundreds of students and community members who strongly voiced their enthusiasm and support for the ethnic studies graduation requirement. The school board responded with a 6-1 vote and a newly seated Superintendent Cortines voiced his readiness by enthusiastically stating that he, “accepted the challenge!” On May 8, 2015, in an email addressed to school board members and executive staff, Cortines relinquished the challenge and stated, “ I do not support the recommendation to make Ethnic Studies a graduation requirement. Ethnic Studies is not a requirement to gain acceptance nor is it a requirement to graduate from any college institution.”
Ethnic Studies Committee Woes
One of the first challenges to realizing the initiative was putting together a capable Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. This responsibility fell primarily to the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Angel Barrett. Surprisingly, the Committee was formed to the exclusion of members of the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition and was heavily packed with District administrative staff, a majority of whom had little to no experience with ethnic studies matters. Only after petitioning school board members to include representation from the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition did the Coalition get 2 seats at the table. The Coalition added tremendous value to the Committee by bringing in the only ethnic studies scholar to sit on the Committee, Professor and Chair of Pan African Studies at CSULA, activist/scholar Dr. Melina Abdullah. The Coalition also brought in current teachers and students of ethnic studies who were able to articulate the social and academic value that teaching and learning in ethnic studies provides. These voices were critical in steering the District members of the Committee away from a diversity class and moving the implementation plan to a model where an intercultural ethnic studies course and an array of classes in the field of ethnic studies would satisfy the graduation requirement.
The Ethnic Studies Coalition rejects as factually inaccurate the assumption that the Ethnic Studies Committee as a whole provided any budget estimates or projections. The 5 Committee meetings consisted of developing consensus on an implementation model and a timeline, at no time did the Committee discuss budget in detail. Members of the Ethnic Studies Committee did not receive a budget projection until Monday, May 25, 2015 -- by chance where a budget document was publicly available at the entrance to the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Committee meeting. Early analysis by independent budget experts reveal that this budget is highly speculative and inflated in the areas of textbook and teacher costs. It appears that the budget is designed to induce sticker shock to provide fodder for a pre-emptive media blitz aimed at shutting down ethnic studies.
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