'Republic' editorial is wrong

Bilingual education is an utter failure

On Sept. 17, The Arizona Republic published a long editorial denouncing Proposition 203, our initiative requiring that all children in Arizona schools be taught English (“Ban on bilingual ed poisonous for state”).

The Republic editors never even tried to meet with us. If they had done so, we doubt they would have published their ignorant and mean-spirited attack.

(Editor’s note: Four members of the Editorial Board met with Ron Unz, the father of California’s Proposition 227, several months ago. The writer of The Republic’s editorial had spoken by phone with both Ms. Mendoza and Mr. Ayala).

By opposing Proposition203, The Republic is endorsing Arizona’s existing system of Spanish-only, so-called bilingual education, which prevents tens of thousands of poor Hispanic children from being taught to read, write and speak English. Bilingual education is an evil system of racial discrimination that has destroyed the education of countless Hispanic children in our state. We are shocked that our state’s largest newspaper today endorses racial segregation in Arizona schools.

The editorial also showed complete ignorance of the reality of bilingual education. Unlike The Republic, we have worked for years with immigrant parents, whose children are being destroyed by this cruel Spanish-only system. For example, two-thirds of the children in our own Tucson district who finally learn enough English to leave the bilingual program have spent eight years or more in that program.

But The Republic editorial ignorantly quoted Alexandra Sotomayor, the leader of Tucson’s bilingual teachers, boasting about the success of her bilingual program.

Our Proposition 203 is similar to California’s Proposition 227, which passed in 1998 against the same opposition from the same corrupt bilingual-education industry. California’s bilingual bureaucrats predicted doom but have been proven completely wrong. Now that nearly a million California schoolchildren have been moved out of Spanish-only classes, they are doing much better on the same SAT-9 tests that Arizona uses.

The California results have been so good that many supporters of bilingual education have admitted they were wrong.

In 1998, California’s San Jose Mercury News strongly opposed ending bilingual education, but by 1999 it published a huge banner headline proclaiming the success of the new system. Months of research by the Mercury News had found that the test scores of immigrant children in bilingual programs were much lower than immigrant children in English immersion classes.

Although Oceanside Superintendent Ken Noonan had been a bilingual teacher and founded the California Association of Bilingual Educators, he obeyed the new law and eliminated all his bilingual classes. His poor Hispanic students doubled their test scores in two years, and Noonan has become a leading advocate of English immersion.

If The Republic won’t believe us, why won’t it believe America’s biggest and best newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, all of which have now proclaimed the success of the California initiative? More than a hundred other national newspapers have now called for an end to failed bilingual education. If The Republic is right, then nearly every other major newspaper and magazine in America is wrong.

About the only people in America who still believe that bilingual education works are the bilingual-education professors and the bilingual-education administrators and the gullible people who listen to them, such as a few Arizona politicians and the editors of The Republic.

Despite the opposition of The Republic, we think Proposition 203 will pass and our Hispanic schoolchildren will do much better in school. In a couple of years, the editors of The Republic will have to explain why they fought so hard to keep Hispanic children in segregated, Spanish-only misery.

Arizona’s Hispanic families will remember who stood with them and who stood against them. Maria Mendoza is chair of English for the Children-Arizona/Prop. 203, and Hector Ayala is co-chair of English for the Children-Arizona/Prop. 203. Readers are invited to submit columns of up to 625 words.

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