Bilingual education bills in duel

Two lawmakers, who had hoped to reach a compromise on related bills, remain at odds regarding a limit on funding.

PHOENIX – The legislative battle over bilingual education is
heating up as two lawmakers jockey for position, each determined that
his or her respective bill emerges from the current session
relatively intact.

For Rep. Laura Knaperek, a Tempe Republican, a three-year limit on
funding a child’s bilingual education is non-negotiable.

For Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez, a Phoenix Democrat, a three-year limit
is unacceptable. He wants no time limit.

Their feud boiled to the surface yesterday after Knaperek’s bill,
which has passed the House, was killed in the Senate Education
Committee by Democrats with the help of Senate Education Chairman
John Huppenthal, R-Chandler.

Lopez, who sits on the committee, led the vote to kill Knaperek’s
bill because he was upset she was preparing to change his bill, which
has moved to the House after passage by the Senate.

Knaperek plans to replace the contents of Lopez’s bill with the
contents of her bill, so both bills would set a three-year limit on
bilingual education.

Lopez, however, relented and asked that Knaperek’s bill be
reconsidered because he was afraid both bills would die, and he hoped
to continue negotiating with Knaperek. Her bill passed the Education
Committee 8-1 upon reconsideration and now moves to the Senate Rules
Committee.

Lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would modify bilingual
funding to combat a proposed ballot initiative that would gut
bilingual education programs in Arizona.

Lopez’s bill will be heard in the House Education Committee today.

“If my bill makes it through and continues to have life, we will
work for a consensus bill,” Lopez said. “If they kill my bill and we
are left with Laura’s bill only, an attempt will be made by me to
kill that one.”

Knaperek countered that Lopez’s bill “will be heard and amendments
will be offered, and the chips will fall where they may.”

“I felt I have negotiated in good faith. I’m not playing games.
I’m not holding up bills, and I invited Joe Eddie to the table. He
has never been willing to work with me.”

Knaperek said Lopez met with her Monday, along with Keegan and
Jaime Molera, Gov. Jane Hull’s policy adviser on education. She said
Lopez refused to budge from the three-year time limit.

Knaperek said her bill is necessary because if changes in
bilingual education administration aren’t made, the anti-bilingual
initiative would succeed.

Lopez disputes that. “Of course I do not believe they (voters)
will pass the initiative,” he said. “Passing the bill has nothing to
do with the initiative.”

The initiative, filed by Tucson-based English for the Children, is
identical to California’s Proposition 227, which took effect last
fall.

The initiative would require that children in bilingual education
enroll in an English immersion class for one year and then move into
mainstream classes.



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