House passes three-year limit for bilingual education

PHOENIX – Extra state funding for students in bilingual
education programs would be limited to three years under a plan approved
by the Arizona House.

The House voted 33-26 on Wednesday for the bill (HB2387) which would
cut off state funding for bilingual education for students after three
years and would allow parents to keep their children out of the programs.

Schools would not get extra funding for bilingual education programs
after a student’s three-year limit unless parents request it and the
state superintendent of public instruction approves.

Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, said her bill is intended to improve
education because current bilingual education programs have not been
successful. She also has said her bill is a middle-ground compromise
between defenders of bilingual education and critics who are promoting a
proposed ballot measure essentially to ban bilingual education.

Knaperek on Wednesday spoke in Spanish to support her bill: “Eso
persupuesto es muy bueno,” or “This bill is very good.”

Rep. Sylvia Laughter, D-Kayenta, responded by saying in Navajo that
it was a bad bill and she was voting against it.

Opponents of Knaperek’s bill defend bilingual education, saying it
works if done by qualified teachers. All of the House’s Hispanic and
American Indian lawmakers opposed the measure.

“This bill is nothing more than a very slow death of bilingual
education,” said Rep. Carlos Avelar, D-Phoenix. “It (bilingual
education) is not about being anti-English, it’s about making sure our
children are competitive with other children throughout the world.”

The House previously amended the bill to add a requirement that
foreign language classes be part of the core curriculum of public
schools. That drew the opposition of Rep. Dan Schottel, R-Tucson, who
said schools did not have the money to expand foreign language programs.

Knaperek and bilingual education backer Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez,
D-Phoenix, have trying to work out a compromise bilingual education
measure. Knaperek’s bill could be amended in the Senate with that
compromise.



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