Bill limits bilingual ed

Lawmakers work to craft a compromise in order to avoid a ballot box showdown.

A House-passed proposal to set a three-year limit on bilingual
education appears to be picking up support in the state Senate.

The House voted 33-26 Wednesday in favor of a bill that would cut
off state funding for a student’s bilingual education after three
years. A Senate vote is expected during the next two weeks.

Last year, a bill that would have imposed a four-year limit on
bilingual education earned House approval but was never heard in the

This time, prospects look much better, said the bill’s sponsor,
Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe.

“I think a lot of people are concerned that if we don’t pass this,
it will be decided at the ballot box,” Knaperek said, referring to
efforts to get an initiative on the ballot that would essentially ban
bilingual education in Arizona’s public schools.

Knaperek and Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez , D-Phoenix, have been meeting
to compromise on a bilingual education bill.

Lopez filed his own reform bill earlier in the session, but it
failed to win enough support. The bill would have required the state
Department of Education to evaluate bilingual programs on site and
would have raised wages for bilingual education teachers.

Knaperek said Lopez wants to add a provision to her bill that
would allow successful bilingual programs to continue without a time

In return, Lopez “has agreed to a limit” for other bilingual
programs, Knaperek said. She said the limit would not necessarily be
three years.

A revised bill is seen as a compromise aimed at thwarting the
proposed ballot initiative.

In January, Tucson-based English for the Children filed an
initiative that mirrors California’s Proposition 227, which took
effect last fall.

The Arizona initiative would require that children in bilingual
education take a one-year English immersion class, then move to
mainstream classrooms.

In California, that mandate has been met with resistance from
parents. Some have signed waivers to keep their children in
bilingual classrooms.

Locally, the bilingual debate has raged during the past year.

The flames were fanned this summer by Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley
millionaire who spearheaded the California effort and is lending
financial support to the Arizona group.

Bilingual education supporters say they are opposed to Unz
interfering with local politics.

Passage of an Arizona initiative could spell trouble for the
Tucson Unified School District, which last year received $1.17
million in state funding for bilingual education.

That’s an average of $151 for each student in TUSD’s bilingual


Highlights of House Bill 2387, which would revamp bilingual
education programs in Arizona public schools:

Schools would not get extra funding for students who remain in
English-acquisition programs longer than three years unless parents
request it and the state superintendent of public instruction

The state superintendent would develop criteria for school
districts to use when placing and removing pupils from bilingual or
English as a Second Language programs.

School districts would be required, within 30 days of placing a
student in a bilingual program, to tell parents the student’s latest
test scores, the type of instruction the student will receive, and
the bilingual teaching credentials of the teacher.

The bill would not change funding time limits for bilingual
programs for Native Americans.

Source: Arizona House of Representatives

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