House panel kills Senate bill to bolster bilingual education

A House committee on Friday killed a Senate-passed bill to bolster bilingual education programs, likely dooming any chance for legislation action on the controversial issue this session.

That would send lawmakers home for the year without enacting any alternative to a California-style initiative proposed for the 2000 ballot to virtually dismantle bilingual education.

The sponsor of the now-dead bill predicted a rival House-passed version with a three-year limit on state funding will die in the Senate, leaving until next year any further attempt to reach a compromise.

“We might as well stop at this particular time and call it quits,” said Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez, D-Phoenix. “We will have to go another year with what we have in place.”

The House Education Committee voted 5-4 against Lopez’s bill (SB1001), with the “no” votes coming from Republicans saying they preferred the rival bill (HB2387) sponsored by Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe.

“I’m afraid that if this bill passes as it is, the initiative will be on the ballot and we will have no say what happens on bilingual education,” said committee Chairman Dan Schottel, R-Tucson.

Three Democrats and one Republican voted for Lopez’s bill, saying variously it was the better approach or that both bills needed to be kept alive in hopes of reaching consensus.

Both bills contained provisions giving parents new rights on their children’s participation in bilingual education, while Lopez’s mandated new state evaluations of districts’ programs, encouraged use of an acclaimed method and eventually required use of only bilingual-certified teachers.

But the principal dividing line between them is the three-year time limit that is the centerpiece of Knaperek’s bill.

Knaperek honored Lopez’s request that no changes be made to his bill – already dramatically scaled back by the Senate from its original form – but that left her unwilling to support it during the committee vote.

“It is imperative for me to have a time limit,” Knaperek said after Friday’s hearing. “My bill would have diverted the initiative and that was what I was trying to do on top of making programs more successful for kids.”

She said Lopez’s bill would have largely continued a failed status quo. “These folks have had their opportunity for 30 years – where have they been?”

Lopez said there is no proof that a three-year limit would do any good and research indicating that participation in bilingual education for longer periods is more effective.

While Knaperek predicted the initiative would pass if it is on the 2000 ballot, Lopez’s prognostication said the outcome in Arizona would be different than California.

Arizona political, business and religious leaders will be active in the debate, Lopez said. “We are going to be energized to take on this issue.”

Comments are closed.