Official Ballot Arguments Against Proposition 203

The following is taken from the official State of Arizona web page:

The Official AZ State Dept Proposition 203 is at: 


From:  Arizona Education Association
Penny Kotterman, President, Arizona Education Association, Phoenix
Charles Lentz, Executive Director, Arizona Education Association, Phoenix

On behalf of more than 30,000 dedicated public school employees I strongly urge all voters to vote "no" on Proposition 203. Students who are learning English as a second language have the fundamental right to the most appropriate and suitable method for learning English in school; this proposition eliminates that right. All students deserve an education that culminates in their fluency in English and their mastery of academic content. For students learning English, a foundation in literacy and academic concepts in their native language provides them equal footing as they move through a program of language acquisition. Denying students this opportunity relegates them to a second tier of achievement as they fall behind in their content studies while struggling with a foreign language.

Parents, not state government, should make decisions regarding their child's education. This proposition tells parents who want the opportunity of a bilingual education that the bureaucracy knows better - they can not make that choice. Such a limitation of choice and prospect must be considered a violation of civil rights as one class of citizens finds a door to
opportunity slammed in their faces.

Furthermore, teachers could find themselves threatened by the law for using their professional judgement. If a teacher determined that a student did not understand a concept explained in English, this proposition would legally prohibit her from teaching that concept in the child's native language. State government has no business intruding into professional
decisions made in the classroom.

In short, Proposition 203 threatens teachers who would make educational decisions in the best interest of their students, revokes parental rights of choice regarding their child's education, and punishes children whose first language is not English by denying them educational opportunities. Please vote "no".

Penny Kotterman, President, Arizona Education Association, Phoenix
Charles Lentz, Executive Director, Arizona Education Association, Phoenix
Paid for by Arizona Education Association 

From:  Arizona English Teachers Association
Mary Setliff-Hodge, Arizona English Teachers Association, President
Salvador Gabaldón, Arizona English Teachers Association, Executive Liaison

Fellow Citizens:

The Arizona English Teachers Association, dedicated to furthering the teaching of English, believes that strong English literacy, along with supportive parental involvement, are two critical factors in the academic success of language minority children. Ironically, the initiative sponsored by "English for the Children" is dangerously misleading on both counts.

First, its one-year limit weakens English instruction. American teachers, who have helped to make English the world's most international language, know that English learners can quickly develop some fluency in spoken English. However, reading and writing English at grade level is a much more gradual process. English and bilingual education teachers have
learned through experience that three years of special instruction--Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Level English--is the minimum amount of time required for students to attain sufficient reading and writing skills. Instead of this proven three-year program, the initiative gives students only one year before they are forced into regular classes where teachers
may not have the time or expertise to deal with their unique needs--or would have to slow instruction for other students.

Secondly, it reduces parental involvement. All parents have a right to be involved in decisions affecting the type of instruction offered in public schools. Thus, we oppose any law that would ignore parents' wishes and dictate only one method of instruction for all students. Moreover, the initiative prohibits certain students from applying for waivers and gives school officials the unprecedented power to reject parental requests "without explanation or legal consequence."

Reports on California's experiment, initially positive, now are quite troubling. One-year plans purport to help immigrant children yet actually limit their success in American schools and limit parental choice. Arizonans should reject this punitive measure.

Mary Setliff-Hodge, AETA President
Salvador Gabaldón, AETA Executive Liaison
Paid for by Arizona English Teachers Association

From:  Mexican American Political Association
Lydia Guzman, Arizona - Mexican American Political Association, State President
Sylvia Avila, Treasurer

We, the members of MAPA (Mexican American Political Association), do hereby oppose proposition 203 in which the elimination of our current bilingual education system would be replaced with a one year crash course.

This proposition is not feasible for the children of bilingual families in Arizona for the following reasons:

  • More students will drop out of school at an earlier age due to language frustration. 
  • Fewer students will graduate high school with the implementation of the AIMS testing. 
  • Fewer students will enroll in college because they couldn't grasp K-12 curriculum without bilingual classes.
  • Parents will no longer have the right to choose programs like bilingual education, ESOL,LEP. 
Bilingualism is a highly marketable skill to posses in this age of global marketing and technology. The abolishment of this program would be detrimental not only to the future of the children that stand to lose much, but to our own futures as well. 

For the future of Arizona as well as for the future of the country, we must prepare our youth to communicate globally.

Proposition 203 will place Arizona students at a disadvantage from the graduating students in the rest of the country.

Lydia Guzman, Arizona MAPA State President
Sylvia Avila, Treasurer

From:  English Plus More
Lorraine Lee, Chair, English Plus More, Tucson

An English Only Initiative...pushed by big money from out of state...dividing Arizona along ethnic lines...disrupting public institutions...clogging our court systems...limiting the rights of minority citizens.

Sound familiar? Arizonans have already been there, done that. From 1988 to 1998 we had to cope with Proposition 106, a sweeping mandate for English Only government. Finally it was declared unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court, deemed a violation to free speech.

Another English Only Law is the last thing that we need, especially one that:

  • plays politics with schools and schoolchildren.
  • robs parents and elected officials in any say of how English learners will be taught.
  • limits these kids to, at the most, 180 days of English instruction.
  • excludes them from any kind of bilingual program, including programs designed to save American Indian languages from extinction.
  • prohibits language teaching methods such as "dual immersion", in which English-speaking students learn Spanish while Spanish-speaking students learn English.
These are just a few extreme provisions of the so-called "English for the Children" initiative. It's on the ballot, not because Arizonans asked for it, but because a California millionaire spent $105,000 to put it there.

Arizona, home to a rich variety of languages and cultures, should be the last state to join Mr. Unz crusade against Bilingual Education. Senator John McCain, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore have all condemned this campaign as divisive.

We should join instead with them in embracing the concept of English Plus More: All Americans need excellent English skills. That is the chief goal of Bilingual Education. We need language programs that "Plus" can provide: Spanish, Navajo, Korean, Chinese, Tohono O'Odham, among others. This is necessary to provide our children with the skills necessary to compete with the ever-growing global economy and to safeguard our American heritage.

English Only is Self-Defeating!

Lorraine Lee, Chair, English Plus More, Tucson

From:  Arizona Senator Joe Eddie Lopez, Phoenix

In Arizona, limited English proficient students attend special programs to help them learn English. Current Arizona law includes a number of programs for parents to choose from, including variations of bilingual education AND English immersion. This initiative eliminates choice and mandates a one-size-fits-all approach.

Misleading voters, proponents claim that "waivers" are available. However, since the initiative replaces existing statutes, there will be no other programs for parents to choose from even if they get a waiver. Thus, a parent who wants their child in bilingual education will have to wait for the legislature to pass, by a vote, a law that reinstates existing program options. Even if this happens, the remaining waiver provisions are severe. For example, most parents wanting to choose bilingual education will be forced to sign a statement declaring their child has "psychological needs." How many of us would make such a statement, which becomes permanent school record, about our children? Parents should not have to face such obstacles to place their children in the program of their choice.

Many parents choose bilingual education, which uses BOTH English and students' native languages for instruction. Educational experts agree this is the most effective way to help students learn English and promote high academic achievement. The superior effectiveness of bilingual education over English immersion is corroborated by data from our own Department of Education. 

Californians passed this initiative and the results are bleak. After the first year of English immersion in Orange County, only 6 of 3,500 non-English-speakers learned English well enough to attend regular classes. That is over a 99% failure rate for English immersion! Statewide, results are similar.

Vote "no" on this failed California experiment and let Arizona parents and schools decide the best way to teach our children.

Joe Eddie Lopez, Phoenix
Paid for by Lopez Election Committee 2000

From:  Arizona Hispanic Community Forum
Esther Duran Lumm, President, Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, Phoenix
Alexandria Pisano, Treasurer, Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, Tempe

Please do not be lulled into believing the official analysis associated with this initiative. It contains misinformation and at worst, grossly misrepresents the real facts. 

This initiative was bought and paid for by an out-of-state millionaire who is proposing an alternative already proven to be a dismal failure in California. It is mean-spirited and discriminatory. So draconian are its provisions, that most Educational and a great number of community organizations have united to fight the initiative. The initiative clearly threatens Arizona's Native American languages. The initiative removes opportunity for Indian children to learn English and retain their native languages; many of which are in danger of dying out, at a great loss to all Arizonans. 

In Arizona, with parental approval, limited English-proficient students may attend any number of programs designed to assist a student's language deficiencies. These initiative removes from parents, teachers and local administration the ability to provide an educational program best suited for their children. Instead, your children will have to participate in a
one-size-fits-all mandated program.

The analysis on this initiative suggests that a parent can apply for a waiver if they want their child to participate in a bilingual program. This is a lie. The initiative repeals all statutory language acquisition options. Assuming the waiver language to be true; the parents would have to declare that their child has physical or psychological needs, and the statement would be made part of his/her permanent school record.

Most important, bilingual education works. Most educational experts agree that bilingual education is the most effective program designed for students to learn English and gain academic excellence. The effectiveness of bilingual education is corroborated by data from our own Arizona Department of Education. Vote no on this proposition.

Esther Duran Lumm, President, Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, Phoenix
Alexandria Pisano, Treasurer, Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, Tempe
Paid for by Arizona Hispanic Community Forum

From:  Arizona Language Education Council
Mary Carol Combs, Correspondence Secretary, Arizona Language Education Council
Maria Elena Sotomayor, Data Manager, Arizona Language Education Council
John Petrovic, Central Arizona Co-Chair, Arizona Language Education Council

Fundamentally this election is about two principles that an English-only law would jeopardize:

  • parents' right to choose the education they want for their children, and 
  • local school boards' right to decide what kinds of instruction are appropriate. 
Arizonans have long cherished and defended these rights. But the initiative, bankrolled entirely by out-of-state interests, threatens to destroy our traditions of parental choice and local control of education. It would:
  • impose a statewide, one-size-fits-all curriculum for all children whose English is limited; 
  • mandate an arbitrary, one-year English program for students who now receive, on average,
  • 3-4 years of special help in learning English; 
  • threaten stiff financial penalties for any teacher, administrator, or school board member with lawsuits; and 
  • force Hispanic and Native American parents to declare their kids mentally retarded to qualify for "waivers" of the English-only rule. 
Initiative sponsors claim (without much evidence) to speak for immigrants who are disaffected with bilingual education and who favor other ways of teaching English. But consider these facts:

Only 30 percent of Arizona's limited-English students are now enrolled in bilingual ssrooms; 70 percent already receive all their instruction in English. 

Under current law, Arizona parents may remove their children from bilingual education at any time. They don't need an initiative. 

Where offered, bilingual programs are extremely popular. Last year, in the Tucson and Sunnyside school districts, 99 percent of the parents of eligible students chose the bilingual option. 

Bilingual programs have produced superior results in English reading at every grade level over the past 3 years, according to the Arizona Department of Education. 

Arizonans recognize that expanding choices is good for our schools. So why deny this right to Hispanic and Native American parents? Let's trust them to do what's best for their kids.

Mary Carol Combs, Correspondence Secretary, Arizona Language Education Council, Oro Valley
Maria Elena Sotomayor, Data Manager, Arizona Language Education Council, Oro Valley
Paid for by Maria Elena Sotomayor
John Petrovic, Central Arizona Co-Chair, Arizona Language Education Council, Oro Valley

From: The Green Party In Arizona

Bilingual Education is a necessity in Arizona. Green Party candidates are opposed to Proposition 203 and any measure that would do away with this much needed program. We believe this is a mean- spirited attack on children of color by people with disingenuous motives. 

Our state has a large number of families with children whose primary language is not
English. It is unrealistic to believe that a child can become fluent in any language in less than one year. Forcing teachers to instruct children in English when they do not understand the language is cruel and unjust. 

Bilingual education, like the rest of Arizona's education system, is suffering from a lack of funding and resources. To kill this important program because we are not giving it the proper funding is the wrong way to go. A similar measure that passed in California is failing miserably because children are not receiving the instruction they need. 

Don't let racism get in the way of a child's future. Vote "No" on Proposition 203 and preserve the rights of all Arizona's children to receive a quality education.

William Crosby, Green Party Candidate, Legislative District 9, House, Tucson
Jack Strasburg, Green Party Candidate, Legislative District 10, House, Tucson
Chris Ford, Green Party Candidate, Legislative District 11, Senate, Tucson
Bill Moeller, Green Party Candidate, Legislative District 11, House, Tucson
Katie Bolger, Green Party Candidate, Legislative District 14, House, Tucson
John Scudder, Green Party Candidate, Legislative District 25, House, Phoenix
Susan Campbell, Green Party Candidate, Pima County Superintendent of Schools, Tucson
David Croteau, Green Party Candidate, Pima County Sheriff, Tucson
Peter Hormel, Green Party Candidate, Pima County Attorney, Tucson
Bill Zaffer, Green Party Candidate, Pima County Recorder, Tucson
Paid for by Green Party

From: Arizona-Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (AZ-TESOL)
Delight A. Diehn, AZ-TESOL President, 1999-2000, Scottsdale
Nancy Jamieson Mallette, AZ-TESOL Rules and Resolutions Chair,1999-2000, Scottsdale

AZ-TESOL, Arizona's professional organization of teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, submits the following argument in opposition to the initiative sponsored by "English for the Children of Arizona."

As a group of English language teachers, we strongly oppose this initiative and its extremely negative impact on the English language acquisition of students in Arizona. This initiative limits students whose first language is not English to only ONE school year of intensive English language learning before immersing them in content classes with little or no support.

Research clearly demonstrates that language learners need much more time to acquire another language, particularly for the acquisition of reading and writing skills necessary for academic achievement in another language.

As a group of English language teachers, we oppose this initiative and the resulting lack of equal access which English language-learning students would have to programs which provide the English they need to be successful in Arizona's classrooms. The initiative will eliminate ALL longer-term ESL and bilingual education services to a large percentage of our
student population.

AZ-TESOL also opposes this initiative because it curtails the rights of parents to make choices for their children's education, and removes the rights of individual school districts to make educational programs decisions which are appropriate for their specific student populations. If this initiative should be passed, the results will affect all Arizona residents in both the educational and employment arenas for many years.

AZ-TESOL, as a group of Arizona English teachers, strongly urges you to vote against this initiative, and to support the rights of our parents, local educators, and school districts to choose what is best for the education of our student populations.

Delight A. Diehn, AZ-TESOL President, 1999-2000, Scottsdale
Nancy Jamieson Mallette, AZ-TESOL Rules and Resolutions Chair,1999-2000, Scottsdale
Paid for by Delight A. Diehn

From: The Navajo Nation
Kelsey A. Begaye, President, The Navajo Nation, Window Rock 
Sharon M. Noel, Chief of Staff, Office of the President / Vice-President,
The Navajo Nation, Window Rock 

The Navajo Nation Office of the President / Vice-President opposes Proposition 203 because it:

Forbids Navajo in the classroom. Proposition 203 forbids Navajo students from participating in meaningful Navajo language programs. The people of the Navajo Nation understand the importance of their children learning English, but realize the importance of protecting Navajo culture though the use and education of the Navajo language.

Provides less education. Proposition 203 limits English programs to one year providing less English received in existing ESL and bilingual programs.

Will be unsuccessful. For hundreds of years the Navajo people have been forced into similar unsuccessful English language immersion programs with lengthier time limits than one year. A one year program with the same principles will also prove to be unsuccessful.

Will cause low test scores. Proposition 203 claims that students will learn English in one year, however, almost 93% of the students in the California program failed to test proficient after only one year.

Denies parental rights. Parents will have no choice in the children's education because "[t]eachers and local school districts may reject waiver requests without explanation or legal consequences." Proposition 203 §15-753.B.3

Violates Arizona law. Section Two of Proposition 203 would repeal sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes that now protect language-related civil rights.

Threatens educators. The initiative allows educators to be sued, and if the educator loses the suit, forces them to pay court costs and damages as well as be banned from employment in Arizona as an educator for five years.

An initiative which abolishes the civil rights of Arizona children, denies parents the right to a choice in their children's education, threatens educators, and encourages the genocide of Native American cultures is strongly opposed by the Navajo Nation Office of the President / Vice-President.

Kelsey A. Begaye, President, The Navajo Nation, Window Rock 
Sharon M. Noel, Chief of Staff, Office of the President / Vice-President,
The Navajo Nation, Window Rock 
Paid for by The Navajo Nation

From: Alberta Tippeconnic, Scottsdale

The Indian tribes in Arizona are the descendants of the first peoples in the Americas. The many Indian languages spoken in Arizona are an integral part of tribal culture, much of which is passed on from generation to generation by a primarily oral tradition that includes legends, history, stories and values. These are living languages, used daily by Indian people in their homes, in business, and in public and governmental affairs.

The concern of Indian tribes in Arizona is no longer only with enabling their children to learn English, but enabling them to acquire and develop in both their tribal languages and English. The preservation and maintenance of Indian cultures and religions, which depend totally on American Indian languages in order to thrive, is inherent and vital to all aspects of American Indian life. Experience of bilingual programs in Arizona support studies which demonstrate that sustained promotion of children's primary language for at least five to seven years is an effective route to both academic excellence and literacy in two languages.

Indian people recognize the importance of learning other languages, including English, in order to better communicate with others. However, we consider the proposition which prescribes that all public school instruction be conducted in English an attempt to destroy Indian cultures and the freedoms on which this country was founded. The policy
of Arizona should be to encourage and foster communication through enhanced bilingual education rather then prescribe that only English be used for instruction in Arizona public schools.

Alberta Tippeconnic, Scottsdale

From:  Arizona School Boards Association
Linda Lopez, President-Elect, Arizona School Boards Association, Phoenix
Harry Garewal, Vice President, Arizona School Boards Association, Phoenix

Proposition 203 is about taking away parents' rights to make decisions regarding their children's education. Currently, a school is allowed to offer a variety of programs for children who come to school with limited or no English language skills. The school tailors the programs to their students' needs: the ages of the students, the language skills and academic level that the students already have and the receptiveness of the students to particular teaching methods all play a role in determining what type of program best suits them. EVERY program employed has the goal of making the student proficient in English. 

Currently, student participation is voluntary and requires parental consent before a child can be enrolled in a program. The parent can also withdraw the child from the program at any time. If a student is not enrolled in one of the formal programs offered, a program specialized for that student must be developed. Again, right now, parents decide.

Proposition 203 would drastically change that by repealing all of the current options available to students -- AND their parents -- mandating that schools teach all English language learners through a specific, ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL program, the so-called sheltered English immersion program. 

The Arizona School Boards Association OPPOSES Proposition 203 for two reasons:

  • it ELIMINATES THE AUTHORITY OF SCHOOLS in offering programs based on the needs of their individual students; AND
  • it ELIMINATES THE CHOICES OF PARENTS in selecting programs that best suit their children. 
ASBA urges you to preserve learning options for parents and their children -- VOTE NO on Proposition 203.

Linda Lopez, President-Elect, Arizona School Boards Association, Phoenix
Harry Garewal, Vice President, Arizona School Boards Association, Phoenix
Paid for by Arizona School Boards Association, Inc.




 A "yes" vote shall have the effect of requiring all public school instruction to be conducted in English, rather than in bilingual programs, requiring an intensive one-year English immersion program to teach English as quickly as possible while teaching academic subjects, unless parents request a waiver for children who know English, are 10 years or older or have special needs, and permitting enforcement lawsuits by parents and guardians.

 A "no" vote shall have the effect of not requiring that all public school instruction be conducted in English with a one-year English immersion program. 

The Ballot Format displayed in HTML reflects only the text of the Ballot Proposition and does not reflect how it will appear on the General Election Ballot.

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation were reproduced as submitted in the "for" and "against" arguments. 

September 2000