House gives preliminary approval to limiting bilingual education

Parents could prevent their children’s enrollment in bilingual education programs and state funding would be cut off after three years under a measure given preliminary approval by the state House.

“The way this bill is drafted and the spirit behind it is to allow every child in every school in the state of Arizona to be successful,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe. “The bilingual programs in the state have not been successful.”

The measure (HB2387) would allow parents to keep their children out of bilingual education programs if they choose. Schools would not get extra state funding for students in bilingual education for more than three years unless parents request it and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction approves.

The House endorsed the measure Tuesday. It still faces a final vote by the House before it goes to the Senate.

Opponents of the plan, including many Hispanic and American Indian lawmakers, say bilingual education works if it is done by qualified teachers with proper support. The answer, opponents say, is not limiting or eliminating bilingual education but enhancing it.

“If any child in this state is left out and drops out of school because of a program adopted like this, we ought to think long and hard before we do it,” said House Minority Leader Robert McLendon, D-Yuma.

Democrats succeeded in amending the bill to require that foreign language classes be part of the core curriculum of public schools. The provision will ensure “that not only are we educating our students in English so they become proficient in English, but taking the other students and giving them proficiency in a foreign language,” said Rep. Andy Nichols, D-Tucson.

Knaperek said lawmakers involved in the bilingual education issue in the House and Senate will meet with Gov. Jane Hull today to try to work out differences on bilingual education legislation. Earlier this month, a Senate panel gutted a Democratic proposal that would have increased funding and training requirements for bilingual education.

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