Once a winner is declared in Arizona’s bitter war over bilingual
education, schoolchildren struggling to become fluent in English
could wind up as the big losers.
On one side are bilingual educators who want to preserve – along
with their jobs – an ineffective system of bilingual education that
leaves far too many students illiterate in two languages.
On the other side are those who want voters to virtually eliminate
bilingual education. Under their plan, children who don’t speak
English would take a one-year English immersion class, then move into
Neither one of those options would serve the best interests of
students who must have a successful command of the English language
to prosper here.
But forces in the middle who are trying to craft a legislative
solution have run into their own battles that are threatening to kill
a reasonable compromise.
A Senate bill to give parents more say in their children’s
bilingual education and require state evaluation of school districts’
bilingual programs failed to clear the House Education Committee last
The vote apparently killed its chances for legislative approval.
The only remaining legislative proposal, a House bill that would
impose a three-year limit on bilingual programs, is on its way to the
Senate, where efforts are under way to kill it.
If lawmakers can’t come up with some sort of compromise, voters
would be left with an all-or-nothing proposition certain to
A three-year limit on bilingual programs is reasonable, as long as
exceptions can be made for students who can’t master the English
language in that amount of time.
Instead of punishing the House for rejecting its plan, the Senate
should approve the House bill.
If voters are forced to choose between the current system or no
system of bilingual education, students who speak foreign languages
will be cheated out of the chance they need to lead productive lives
in the United States.