Editorial Boards of All Major Arizona
NO on Prop 203
Includes the opinions of the
Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Arizona Daily Star (Tucson),
Tucson Citizen (Tucson), the East Valley Tribune
(Phoenix), and the Arizona Daily Sun, (Flagstaff)
Editorial Board Opinion
Sept. 17, 2000
Ban on bilingual ed poisonous for
California import should head back west
Fact No. 1: Arizona does a
poor job of educating children who speak little or no English.
Fact No. 2: Bilingual
education is one of several techniques used in Arizona to educate these
The mistaken premise born of
an uncritical look at these two facts: Bilingual education is to blame
for poor student achievement.
Prop. 203, the so-called
English for the Children initiative, takes that erroneous assumption to
a ridiculous extreme by proposing to improve education in Arizona by
eliminating bilingual programs.
It is the wrong answer.
Voters should reject this
Only about a third of the
students in Arizona who have limited proficiency in English are in
bilingual programs. It is one of a variety of educational options
available to parents and school districts. It cannot possibly be the
sole reason for the success or failure of the entire population of
students with limited English skills.
Ironically, statistics from
the Arizona Department of Education suggest that bilingual education is
the most successful of the methods in use with these students, according
to an analysis of three years worth of achievement test scores by the
Arizona Language Education Council.
It needs to be improved and
expanded, not eliminated.
Replacing bilingual education
with one-year English-only "immersion" classes would be a tragic return
to a system that failed generations of Mexican-Americans and Native
When such immersion programs
were used at Tucson Unified School District from 1919 to 1967,
graduation rates for Latinos never rose above 40 percent.
Today, that school district's
comprehensive bilingual program is credited with a Latino dropout rate
of less than 8 percent, says Alejandra Sotomayor, curriculum specialist
at TUSD and co-chair of the Arizona Language Education Council. That
compares favorably with a statewide dropout rate for Latino students of
Districts such as TUSD that
support good bilingual programs do so with little help from the
The state currently spends far
less to educate students who don't speak English than a 1988 study said
was necessary. In January, a federal judge said that miserly funding
amounts to discrimination against non-English speaking students.
Inadequate funding, not
bilingual education, should be the target of those who want to improve
education for children who do not speak English.
Supporters of Prop. 203, a
clone of a California measure that passed two years ago, point to recent
test-score gains by California students to justify importing their
poison proposition to Arizona. But the crowing is as mistaken as their
The improved scores in
California were across the board, not limited to students who had
formerly been in bilingual programs. In addition, those improved scores
came after California mandated smaller class sizes and launched a
reading program that stressed phonics.
Supporters of the proposed ban
on bilingual education are also fond of saying that Arizona is home to
children who speak 72 different languages. Teachers can't be found to
offer bilingual instruction in all those languages, they say.
This time they are right. In
fact, there aren't enough bilingual teachers to offer instruction in
Spanish, Navajo, Apache or Hopi.
But when teachers can be
found, good bilingual programs can help students succeed. It is a
valuable educational tool that should remain an option for parents and
It should not be banned.
Prop. 203 should not become
Arizona Daily Star
Editorial Board Opinion
Tuesday, 24 October 2000
No on Prop. 203
If, for no other reason, the
ballot proposition to ban bilingual education should be rejected for its
divisive qualities. Those not convinced need only consider that
Proposition 203 is aimed at one specific ethnic group. While it bans all
bilingual education, including programs on the Navajo reservation, the
students in Arizona's programs are by and large of Hispanic origin. For
Hispanics, this proposition definitely has a punitive feel to it.
Most news stories include
comments of proponents of the bilingual ban. In each, readers get the
unmistakable feeling that advocates of the ban believe that Hispanics in
bilingual education programs are somehow getting more than their share
of educational booty.
There may be some merit to
that because when bilingual programs are done right, students should
become proficient in both languages. The solution to that problem - if
it is a problem - should be to make second-language learning more
available for all students.
Another good reason to turn
this down: choice. Forget for a minute that this movement was imported
by a wealthy Californian who convinced voters in that state to end
Instead, consider that
parental choice and local control will be usurped by a sweeping
statewide ballot proposition. In essence, local control will be
eliminated by a law mandating statewide educational practices. Parents
who would prefer to place their children in a bilingual program would
have to seek a waiver, which may not be granted.
Now, let's also consider that
English proficiency is the goal of both bilingual education and the Ron
Unz backers of Prop. 203. No one can honestly believe that parents would
not want their child to speak proper English. We'll take as a given that
both the pro- and anti-bilingual crowds are shooting for the same
outcome - the mastery of the language and educational achievement.
Using that assumption, it
makes no sense that limiting the methods of teaching would be something
voters of this state would favor. The proposition makes no provision for
children whose best educational option - bilingual education - would be
unavailable to them. Nor does it address the socio-economic factors -
widely known as the greatest detriment to educational achievement.
A recent news story told of
the success of children in a California school district where bilingual
education was banned. But there was no mention that improved test scores
have been recorded in California by students throughout the state, not
just those of Hispanic origin. And much of that can be traced to
educational practices instituted throughout the state that educators
know have positive impacts on education - such as smaller class sizes.
But the more revealing details
included information showing that even children in immersion programs
take up to three years before becoming proficient in the language.
The finer points of educating
language-minority students should not be decided at the ballot box. And
this proposition does that - micromanage Hispanic students who lack
English skills. It offers no reasonable compromise, especially for
parents and educators who should determine the best course for a child.
This proposition is bad public
policy. More than that, it is a divisive, morally questionable idea that
should not become state law. Vote no on Prop. 203.
The Arizona Daily Star also
published back in April 2000:
Arizona Daily Star
Editorial Board Opinion
Monday, 24 April 2000
Bilingual education is a
difficult public policy issue, partly because emotions are so inflamed,
and partly because it is a debate built on sand.
The underlying justifications
for bilingual education seem constantly to shift, depending on the
speaker, as do the accusations against it. Even so, there are two core
issues that both supporters and opponents of bilingual education should
be able to agree on.
First, when a student has only
limited ability to understand, read, speak and write English, the
schools must help him or her learn English as quickly and as effectively
English-for-the-Children initiative, which would outlaw bilingual
education, is an inappropriate public policy intrusion into the rights
of parents, educators and schools.
Proponents of the initiative
are collecting signatures to get the measure on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Expectations are they will gather sufficient signatures. The initiative,
which is being financed primarily by California millionaire Ron Unz,
would allow non-English-speaking students to be placed for one year in
an English-immersion class.
It allows parents to enroll
their children in bilingual classes only if they request a waiver. The
key problem with the initiative is that it takes a decision that should
be made by parents and educators and writes it instead into law.
Bilingual education may be the
best solution for some students. Immersion may be better for others. But
these are judgments to be made individually, by parents and
professionals considering each child, not by a meat-cleaver state law.
The very best course of action is for voters to refuse to sign the
initiative. If Unz and other English-only backers fail to get their
initiative on the ballot, then calm might prevail.
As long as the ballot issue
boils, the questions about bilingual eduation will be posed in political
rather than educational terms. It will be difficult to focus on such
important issues as how to educate students with limited English.
It is important to keep in
mind that the initiative is not about the effectiveness of any
particular bilingual program. It is not about the benefits of being able
to speak another language in an increasingly multicultural world. It is
not about the benefits of students of Hispanic heritage learning an
appreciation for the cultures from which they and their parents came.
Nor is it about the best ways to teach Anglo students Spanish. Those are
all important issues. But the initiative addresses none of them.
Here is what the initiative is
about. The initiative wants voters to restrict the ability of teachers
to make professional decisions about how they teach students. And the
initiative wants to restrict the ability of parents to choose the
education that they believe is best for their children.
Readers of these pages know
that we express a great deal of skepticism about the effectiveness of
bilingual education as it is currently structured. We have bemoaned the
failure of bilingual education to move students into the mainstream in
an effective manner.
However, this initiative is no
way to fix those problems. The initiative should fail. It is poor public
Educators should recognize,
however, that the initiative does carry an important message: There is
an abiding distrust of the educators in charge of bilingual education.
Educators need to acknowledge,
too, that they cannot reverse that distrust with fuzzy goals, undefined
criteria and poor measurement of performance.
Educators should fight the
initiative. Yet at the same time, they should accept its message that
they need to deal with the problem.
Editorial Board Opinion
October 9, 2000
No on 203: Don't eliminate parental
It seems like a noble
undertaking: Require Arizona children who don't speak English fluently
to learn it as quickly as possible so they can be assimilated into the
mainstream of American life. And supporters of Proposition 203 hope
voters will probe no deeper into the measure before next month's general
But take a look at the details
of the proposition and it immediately becomes apparent that this is a
hateful, divisive initiative designed to force all children to be taught
the same way - regardless of the needs of individual children, the
professional opinions of educators or the wishes of parents. If passed
by voters, the proposition would repeal bilingual education laws and
require that all classes be taught in English. Pupils not fluent in
English would be given one year to learn the language - a year during
which they also would be expected to learn other subjects and keep up
with their English-speaking peers. Fix bilingual education, don't
There is no doubt that there
are serious problems with Arizona's bilingual education system. Students
can languish in the programs for years, never becoming proficient enough
in English to move into regular classes. There have been attempts in the
Legislature to put a limit on how long students can be in bilingual
education classes. Three years has been seen as a reasonable period. But
those efforts have failed.
Nonetheless, Proposition 203's
approach - to force all children to learn English in only one year - is
not the answer. This is not a new idea. It is a throwback to a way of
teaching that has been tried and rejected. From 1917 to 1967, the Tucson
Unified School District had a virtually identical
"learn-it-quick-or-else" program. More than 60 percent of Hispanic
students dropped out of school.
Under current bilingual
education programs, which would be banned by Proposition 203, the
Hispanic dropout rate is 17 percent. And only 6 percent of Hispanic
students in bilingual programs drop out.
Proposition would eliminate
parents' choice Parents who do not want their children taught in
bilingual education classes can now opt out. But the initiative would
forbid more than one year of bilingual instruction unless a parent wrote
a 250-word statement explaining what "special needs" the child has that
require more time. Schools could accept or reject the request "without
explanation or legal consequence."
Why should parents be denied
the opportunity to place their children in any legitimate education
program they wish? Teachers would also be prohibited from using their
professional judgment in deciding how best to teach individual
Arizonans did not ask for this
polarizing measure to be placed on the ballot. It is on only because a
California multimillionaire got a similar measure passed in California.
Thus emboldened, he came to Arizona, wrote a more restrictive initiative
and has spent more than $130,000 to tell us how to teach our children.
He is the only person who has contributed money to the passage of
Bilingual education should be
improved, not junked. Arizona does not need this divisive measure
cleaving our state. The Citizen strongly urges a "No" vote on
We should point out two things:
(1) There has been no official
report documenting failures or problems in bilingual education. It is
heresay and anecdotal. There are probably more stories about bad algebra
(2) If 203 passes, there is no
going back. If it passes, it is nearly impossible to get it modified,
let alone removed:
Sec. 5 of Prop 203.
"The provisions of this act
cannot be waived, modified, or set aside by any elected or appointed
official or administrator, except as through the amendment process
provided for in the Arizona constitution. "
East Valley Tribune
Editorial Board Opinion
Wednesday, October 11, 2000
NO on 203
Anti-bilingual ed measure
deprives parents of choice
A surge in test scores among
California's immigrant school children since an anti-bilingual
initiative passed there two years ago is boosting a similar proposition
on Arizona's general election ballot.
However, the Arizona measure,
Proposition 203, is deeply flawed. It effectively would end bilingual or
dual-language programs for all Arizona students, even those whose
parents want their children in such programs.
That is wrong.
Proposition 203 is
inconsistent with the sound principle of educational choice, which this
newspaper and many conservative state officials have championed.
Choice proponents such as U.S.
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who is helping spearhead the Proposition 203
campaign, have failed to make a credible case for abandoning choice when
it comes to language instruction.
Yes, there's a waiver
provision in the measure, but it's so restrictive that parents seeking
bilingual programs for their children would have to jump through
numerous bureaucratic hoops, with no guarantee that they would succeed.
The proposition's requirement that "all public school instruction be
conducted in English" would outlaw even public charter schools from
offering dual-language instruction.
That is wrong.
Parents should have choices.
And the pro-203 argument that many immigrant parents don't have choice
now - that their children are languishing in bilingual classes - doesn't
justify a different brand of non-choice.
While California's initiative
pushes schools toward English immersion, which gets kids proficient in
the language of success in about a year, the law also requires schools
to offer alternatives for parents requesting them. Indeed, the Oceanside
school district, which boasts some of the biggest test-score gains among
immigrant children since 1998, may be sanctioned by the state for
failing to provide choice.
There are many good arguments
for school choice. One is that average test scores don't tell the whole
story, and curriculum for all students shouldn't be designed exclusively
The truth is that kids - and
parents - are different, and those differences must be recognized and
respected. There are differences in talent and interests among students,
and differences in philosophy and expectations among parents.
Immigrant parents wanting an
English immersion program for their children should be able to get it.
Parents wanting a multicultural, bilingual program for their children
should be able to get it. Conversely, no law should threaten cultural
enrichment programs such as those emerging on the Navajo Reservation
that teach youngsters the native language and customs of their elders.
Proposition 203 would do just that.
Voters who value educational
performance but reject educational mandates should vote no on
Proposition 203 and demand a better solution to legitimate concerns over
poor English proficiency and test scores among many immigrant children.
A solution that provides real
Arizona Daily Sun
Editorial Board Opinion
Oct. 21, 2000
Arizona can't afford English-only
There are two propositions
dealing with education on this year's fall ballot, and neither involves
a very close call.
The first, Prop. 203, calls
for only English to be taught in Arizona classrooms and for students not
fluent in English to be placed in a one-year intensive English immersion
program. Such a proposal is unnecessary and circumvents local control.
We urge a no vote.
The second is Prop. 301, which
would raise the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.6 percent, with the
extra $450 million a year dedicated to K-12 schools and workforce
development at universities and community college. With a flush state
treasury and a state that lags behind almost every other state in per
capita spending on education, there is no better time to prime the
education pump, and do it with a tax that is paid in part by
out-of-staters. We strongly urge a yes vote.
The proponents of Prop. 203
contend that bilingual education fails its students by keeping them for
learning English. But studies have shown that bilingual classes, if
taught correctly, do work and work well. The proponents of English
immersion also contend that such a system works better than a bilingual
curriculum. But the test results from California show test scores
improving for students in both types of classrooms.
So why remove the bilingual
option? Parents already have the right to remove their children from
such classes at any time. And many Navajo parents prefer bilingual
classes in public schools (including Leupp and Tuba City) as a way to
save American Indian languages from extinction.
So what's up here? Have we
missed some groundswell of discontent with bilingual education in
Arizona that has been unleashed now that Californian Ron Unz, who pushed
a similar initiative in his home state, has made his millions available
to Hispanic leaders?
Based on the ballot arguments
published by the Secretary of the State in the voter guide, just the
opposite appears to be true. There is strong opposition to Prop. 203 by
groups like the Mexican American Political Association and the Arizona
Hispanic Community Forum, not to mention the Navajo Nation.
Yes, teachers' groups
professors of education have weighed in against Prop. 203, but that's to
be expected: They have a vested interest in the status quo, which is
bilingual education. We would hope some school districts would offer
English immersion as an option to students who aren't fluent in English,
but so far parents don't seem to be demanding it.
The major problem for us with
Prop. 203 is one we find in other statewide initiatives: an attempt to
impose a one-size-fits-all solution on a "problem" that local elected
officials are perfectly capable of fixing -- if indeed it exists.
Arizona school districts already are held accountable if their students
can't pass reading and writing tests that are given in English. If it
turns out that bilingual education is the culprit, we're confident local
school boards will take steps to
change the curriculum.
But it may just be that
students who enter school without English as their primary language will
take longer and find it more difficult to become proficient in English.
Schools with more of those kinds of students deserve more resources to
help them overcome higher hurdles than other schools face. Limiting the
"solution" to one year of English immersion seems designed to
short-circuit other creative approaches and discourage all but the most
adept non-English-speaking students from learning English and therefore
succeeding in school.
That's not a result Arizona
can afford, and it therefore can't afford Proposition 203.