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JUST IN: Cortines opposes ethnic studies graduation requirement

Craig Clough | June 4, 2015

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LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

With Superintendent Ramon Cortines voicing opposition to the idea, the future of LA Unified’s plan to make the district the second in the state to require an ethnic studies course as a high school graduation requirement appears to be in doubt.

In a May 8 letter obtained by LA School Report addressed to the Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee that was also sent to the school board and other district leaders, Cortines outlined his view that while he supports the idea of the district offering ethnic studies courses, he does not believe it should be a requirement for graduation. Among the key points of the letter:

  • “Although I am in agreement that schools should be allotted the maximum flexibility in implementing Ethnic Studies, and agree that courses should be made available in our comprehensive high schools, pilot schools, and Options schools;  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; therefore, I do not support this.”
  • “I believe the timeline to ensure that Ethnic Students courses are provided for students is unrealistic. I agree that some aspects of this work should begin in 2018-2019, but the overall plan to implement what is outlined is not realistic.”
  • The budget implications to implement the plan as proposed is not reasonable for the District.  The District cannot afford to invest $72 million over four years when many other priorities are unfunded and reductions to essential programs have been steadily made over the years.”

The LA Unified school board made big headlines in the fall when it became the second district in the state to require an ethnic studies course be taken by all high school students as a graduation requirement — El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera was the first. But a recent estimate by the district that it will cost $72.7 million — which was much larger than an original estimate of $3.4 million — along with the Ethnic Studies Committee’s recommendation to delay its full implementation makes it likely the school board will be reexamining the issue soon.

Ethnic Studies Now!, a group that helped organize the campaign for the ethnic studies resolution, is planning to stage a protest at the June 9 board meeting in reaction to Cortines’ letter. The board is not scheduled to be voting on any resolutions regarding ethnic studies, according to its meeting agenda.

The Ethnic Studies Committee, which was formed by Cortines as a result of the board’s ethnic studies resolution, is meeting today and will be discussing a reaction to Cortines’ letter, according to committee member Allan Kakassy.

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