Jason Williams, AZ School Superintendent Candidate, Opposes Ethnic Studies Ban

This is the second part of my posts on the responses I received from Arizona School Superintendent candidates on Arizona’s recent ethnic studies ban. Before continuing on this post, you should read what Margaret Dugan — the sole Republican to write back to me — had to say about ethnic studies.

As I wrote previously, I created a petition to urge Arizona school superintendent candidates to make a pledge to reinstitute ethnic studies in public schools if elected. Interestingly, both Democratic candidates in this race responded back to me on the topic of ethnic studies.

Jason Williams

Jason Williams

Jason Williams is the former Executive Director for Teach for America in Phoenix, who ran for School Superintendent in 2006. His Director of Research and Policy, Kelly McManus, wrote this email to me on the subject of the ethnic studies ban:


Thank you for your message! Jason firmly believes instead of censoring content, we should celebrate diversity, recognize the contributions of all groups, and encourage different points of view.  We live in a pluralistic society.  A robust discussion of ideas is a cornerstone of what it means to be American.  Teaching our students to critically think and allowing them to utilize those skills to come to their own conclusions makes a great educational experience.  He believes in local control, as long as schools are improving student outcomes.  When he is Superintendent of Public Instruction, he will support innovative programs that demonstrate quite clearly higher rates of academic achievement and work with the legislature to stop this trend of censorship.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

My best,

Okay, so when I received this email from Kelly, I had to scratch my head. Does Williams support ethnic studies? Does he support diversifying our existing school curricula? It was a little tough to deduce from the email message, which spent more of its time celebrating diversity than discussing ethnic studies.

Then, I stumbled upon this video clip on YouTube, of four of the candidates discussing their positions on ethnic studies. And Jason Williams’ response — he is last on the video, starting around 5:00 — is positively electrifying.

Wow. Jason Williams’ position on the ethnic studies ban in Arizona is so cogent, so spot-on, and so well-reasoned, that I’m actually finding myself taking a second look at his candidacy in general. His answer is so far removed from the rather obfuscating answer given by his Director of Research and Policy that it’s almost like they came from different campaigns.

Note also that Penny Kotterman, who starts the video off, is the other Democratic candidate in the race, and she also appears to oppose the ethnic studies ban. However, her answer was a little tough to understand — I had to listen to it twice before I figured out that she is also opposed to the ethnic studies ban.

Sadly, I also received an email response from Penny Kotterman in the wake of the petition, but my overly-aggressive spam filter deleted it sometime last week. In any event, I gather it was very similar to what she says in the video clip above.

Act Now! The primary is next week, August 24th. On the topic of the ethnic studies ban in public education, the Democratic candidates couldn’t be further from the Republican candidates. If you are a Democrat who votes in Arizona, please go to the polls next week and choose between our two Democratic candidates for Arizona School Superintendent. With Arizona’s abysmal standing when it comes to public education, this race in November couldn’t be more important in dictating the future of our state.

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona

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