Prop. 203 gets failing grade

Bilingual education backers rally

About 200 people at a pro-teacher rally yesterday called on voters to reject Proposition 203, support a ballot measure to funnel millions more to public education and to dump the AIMS test.

Proposition 203 is a state ballot measure modeled after a California initiative voters there approved in 1998. It would eliminate traditional bilingual education and place students not fluent in English in an intensive one-year immersion program.

“I don’t want to teach them English and take a language away at the same time,” said Salvador Gabaldon, a curriculum specialist in the Tucson Unified School District’s bilingual education program told the crowd of educators, parents and politicians who gathered at El Rio Neighborhood Center on Tucson’s West Side.

A similar rally was held in Phoenix. Both commemorated International Teacher’s Day.

Zaida Meraz, who is in her final year at the UA to become an bilingual teacher, said she worries that children unable to grasp English within the one-year mandate of Proposition 203 will quit school.

Meraz, who entered the school system in the ninth grade when her family moved to Tucson from Nogales, Sonora, said students new to English should be afforded more time to learn the language.

She said that a bilingual program would have made learning easier for her than the three years of instruction she received in English as a Second Language classes. Meraz said bilingual courses were not available to her in high school.

She said parents should keep the choice of whether to enroll their children in bilingual classes.

Cathy Martinez, a bilingual second-grade teacher at C.E. Rose Elementary School, said children are able to acquire “playground English” within a year, but she said that is too soon to expect children to have a full grasp of the language.

Mari Gomez, a mother of three children enrolled in bilingual classes at Hollinger Elementary School, said she too is bewildered by political opposition to bilingual education.

Gomez said she welcomes her children’s ability to communicate in two languages and hopes they learn more.

The state AIMS test was also a frequent target of criticism at yesterday’s rally.

AIMS is a standardized exam that measures student competency in reading, writing and math. High school students will have to pass Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards in reading and writing to get their diploma beginning in 2002.

Passing the math portion of the test becomes mandatory in 2004.

Test results show that many Arizona high school students continue to falter on the test.

The only ballot measure that got support at yesterday’s rally was Proposition 301, which would generate millions more for public education by raising the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.6 percent. The tax is expected to raise nearly $445 million its first year for teacher raises and extra funding of the state’s public school system, colleges and universities.

* Contact Hipolito R. Corella at 573-4191 or at [email protected]

Comments are closed.