A Cholla High School teacher who says his students are dropping
out because they can’t speak English well testified before Congress
in support of a bill that would limit bilingual education funding.
Hector Ayala was one of four people to speak this week on behalf
of the Parents Know Best Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-
The bill would require that schools get parental consent before a
child is placed in a bilingual program. If schools refused, they
would lose federal funding.
Ayala called Salmon’s bill a start, but said the best solution is
to eliminate bilingual programs.
“It would still leave that concept of bilingual education out
there, which is where abuse actually takes place,” Ayala said
Thursday at the hearing.
Ayala, a Cholla English teacher for 12 years, testified that some
of his freshmen who come from bilingual feeder programs are reading
at the fourth-grade level.
“Every year we receive about 640 freshmen,” he testified, “and
four years later, only about 200 graduate.
“These students drop out because they find themselves tragically
challenged in their abilities to speak English or do academics.”
Salmon invited Ayala to testify before a House Education Committee
hearing on bilingual education.
“I think that there is an incentive for people to put kids in
bilingual education to get the (federal) money,” Salmon said. “But
the incentive ought to be the child, not to get the money.”
Tucson Unified School District director of bilingual education
Leonard Basurto said the accusation “couldn’t be farther from the
“School districts can probably save money by not providing special
services to students because the additional funding is only a tiny
fraction of what it takes to provide a quality program,” Basurto
Basurto said he didn’t feel threatened by Salmon’s measure because
TUSD already requires parents written consent before placing children
in bilingual programs.
Parents are asked for their consent when they register children
for classes, Basurto said.
Ayala said the district doesn’t enforce the policy.
“It’s in the books, but they don’t do it,” Ayala countered in an
interview from Washington.
He said there were at least a couple of instances last fall when
children were placed in bilingual programs because they had Spanish
Ayala was one of four bilingual education opponents – including a
former student and a school principal – who spoke before Congress.
His travel expenses were paid by English First, a non-profit
lobbying group opposed to bilingual education.
As co-founder of English for the Children – Arizona, Ayala is
leading a statewide initiative effort to dismantle bilingual
The initiative – which is identical to California’s voter-approved
Proposition 227 – would require that children who don’t speak English
take a one-year English immersion class and then move into mainstream
Salmon, who began meeting with Ayala this spring, said he may join
forces with Ayala to promote his ballot measure.
“I think the major reform in education is going to have to take
place at the state level,” Salmon said. “We need to be more
pro-child and less pro-program.”