Tom Horne is on television about as much as the AFLAC duck.
” . . . (A)nd unlike Jaime Molera, I’ll enforce the ban on bilingual education, so every student learns English,” Horne says in a political ad, most likely airing on radio or television right now.
The commercial insinuates that Molera, the superintendent of public instruction, is not enforcing the initiative voters passed in 2000 that replaced bilingual programs with English immersion.
That isn’t true. But it doesn’t matter. Horne is repeating his message over and over. He’s getting as much airtime as Jared, the guy who lost weight eating Subway sandwiches.
Bilingual education was a hot issue in 2000. Voters enacted the ban, almost 2-to-1, even though those supporting it barely spent any money to push it. It sold itself.
Now, Horne is trying to revive it, hoping that people who bought into the bilingual ban will also buy his bid to unseat Molera.
Campaign spending reports show Horne has spent more than $200,000 to create and buy time for the spots.
The television ad has Horne talking about his principles and platform, over shots of him in classrooms with parents and students.
But, like a good pitchman, he looks directly into the camera to drive home his main point. “Unlike Jaime Molera . . . “
Admittedly, 30 seconds isn’t a lot of time. But Horne doesn’t say exactly what he will do to enforce the ban.
He got more detailed in a phone call. “You issue an opinion that says this is a violation of the law,” Horne says.
But the phrase “I’ll issue an opinion” doesn’t sound as tough as “I’ll enforce.” Not really catchy, either.
Molera has gone beyond issuing an opinion. He’s toughened the law.
The initiative voters passed, Proposition 203, had a provision that allowed parents to get waivers for their children to remain in bilingual education programs.
But the requirements to get a waiver weren’t too exacting. At the Tucson Unified School District, one-third of bilingual students got waivers to remain in bilingual classes. English-only proponents said the waivers were being given out indiscriminately and Spanish-speaking parents didn’t know what they signed.
Molera says bilingual proponents found a loophole in a poorly worded law. “I’m not going to come out and say (that) people are breaking the law, when what they’re doing is allowed under the law.”
But in the last legislative session, Molera worked to close the loophole.
All schools will use one waiver form that clearly spells out, in English and Spanish, what a parent is agreeing to do.
And, under new accountability standards, the state can take over schools that aren’t teaching kids English.
“(Those districts) must change the way they do business. It’s not helping the students,” Molera says, pointing to low graduation rates in the Tucson district. “This isn’t good enough for these kids.”
Molera can’t match Horne’s ad blitz. As a Clean Elections candidate, Molera has a cap of $120,000 on his funding. Horne, meanwhile, has pumped $280,250 of his own money into his campaign.
But Molera does match Horne’s desire to teach students English.
Growing up in Nogales, he says he graduated alongside kids “illiterate in two languages.”
Molera says “it’s absolutely critical that kids learn English.”
Once they grasp it, they can go on to learn how politicians like Horne twist it.
Reach Ruelas at [email protected] or at (602) 444-4873.