Critic of bilingual education says bill 'worthless'

PHOENIX—A leader of a group pushing an initiative to virtually eliminate bilingual education says a compromise bill emerging in the final days of the legislative session won’t affect the proposed ballot measure.

The bill negotiated by House and Senate conferees is a “‘worthless piece of legislation,” said Maria Mendoza, co-chair of Tucson-based English for the Children of Arizona.

“We’re going to continue with (the initiative) whether this bill passes or not,” Mendoza said Tuesday. “We’re not paying attention to politicians any more. They don’t have the guts to come out and say bilingual education programs don’t work.”

The compromise bill (HB2387), negotiated by sponsors of rival measures and drawing parts from each of them, would give new rights to parents regarding their children’s participation in bilingual program.

It also would have lawmakers study the academic and financial aspects of the issue further in anticipation of more action next year.

Other key parts of the original two bills are gone: a 3-year limit on state funding for students’ participation in bilingual programs and new state monitoring of school districts’ compliance with federal and state laws.

Lawmakers who negotiated the compromise defended it.

“We did get something,” said Rep. Laura Knaperek, citing the parental rights provisions that were in both bills from the start. “It’s always been the most importance piece.”

“It gives us an opportunity to address the issue in a comprehensive manner, and that’s what I want to do,” said Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez, D-Phoenix.

Although Lopez said he didn’t think the initiative will pass, Knaperek has voiced concern about the initiative and said it is important that lawmakers give the public an alternative.

The compromise now awaits votes by the House and Senate.

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