And Local Control
Michael O. Peralta Ph.D.
Because of the
sovereignty of Native American tribes many people mistakenly believe
that Proposition 203 would have no effect on Native American languages
and their language revitalization efforts.
Native American students attend private schools on reservation lands --
where State laws do not apply, the vast majority of Native American
students attend ARIZONA PUBLIC SCHOOLS -- where State laws DO APPLY.
Let us now
look at what Prop. 203 states in sections 15-752 and 15-751.
15-752. “ALL CHILDREN IN
ARIZONA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
SHALL BE TAUGHT ENGLISH BY BEING TAUGHT IN ENGLISH AND ALL CHILDREN
SHALL BE PLACED IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS.”
15-751. “BOOKS AND INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS ARE IN ENGLISH AND ALL
READING, WRITING, AND SUBJECT MATTER
ARE TAUGHT IN ENGLISH.”
15:751. “NO SUBJECT MATTER SHALL BE TAUGHT IN ANY
LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH, AND CHILDREN IN THIS PROGRAM LEARN
TO READ AND WRITE SOLELY IN ENGLISH.”
No where in
Proposition 203 does it say that Native Americans or their languages are
excluded from these restrictions. Needless to say, Prop. 203 would have
a direct and very disastrous effect on efforts by Native Americans to
revitalize their languages.
would mean a broad restriction of minority language rights -- regardless
of ethnicity. Again it does NOT make any exclusion for the indigenous
Native American languages of Arizona. It's important to understand that
203 will outlaw almost all efforts to preserve and/or
restore these languages for future generations.
English-only mandate puts in jeopardy language revitalization programs
for Native Americans just as much as jeopardizing bilingual education
programs for Spanish or other Language minority speakers. Prop. 203 is
primarily about restricting the rights of Latinos, Native
Americans, and all other language minorities, by eliminating parental
choice and local control regarding the education of Limited English
Proficient (LEP) students.
The above view
that Prop 203 would negatively affect Native American efforts to
revitalize their language is not just our view. The Native American
tribes in Arizona have written very strong resolutions against the
English-Only restrictions in Prop 203, presenting this very point.
three of these resolutions from the Navajo, Salt River Pima-Maricopa,
and Tohono O'odham tribes are at:
is from the Navajo Nation Resolution against the English-Only "English
Language Education for Children in Public Schools" initiative (Prop 203)
authored by Ron Unz. This Navajo resolution was written before the
initiative was assigned the number Prop 203.
are exerpts from the Navajo Resolution.
---------------------- Exerpt From Navajo Resolution
12. The Navajo
Nation experienced almost a hundred years of "English Only" education
between the late 1860's and the late 1960's. Only with the inclusion of
some Navajo language and culture in the schools did more Navajo students
begin to succeed. Good Navajo-and-English bilingual education programs
can and do work; and
than half of Navajo students now enter school speaking any Navajo. The
Navajo Education Policies, 10 N.N.C. §101 et. seq., call for instruction
in Navajo (and English) at all grades in all Navajo schools.
Passage of the AZ Unz initiative would place
Arizona Navajo public schools in a difficult position between
conflicting Arizona and Navajo Nation laws; and
proponents of this initiative ... are intent on placing students in
"structured /sheltered English immersion" programs, whether or not their
parents want them in such programs; and
Navajo Nation is much more concerned about the continuing loss of the
Navajo language and the relative lack of quality Navajo and English
bilingual education programs. These
ideological attacks on bilingual education are understood as attacks on
the rights of Navajo children and Navajo parents, and on the future of
the Navajo language and way of life;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
1. The Navajo
Nation Council reaffirms the Nation's policies for Navajo language
instruction for all students in all grades in Navajo schools.
Navajo Nation Council reaffirms the Nation's opposition to "English
Only" legislation as constituting threats to Navajo children and their
3. The Navajo
Nation Council states its strong opposition to the proposed Arizona
"English Language Education for Children in Public Schools" initiative.
4. The Navajo
Nation Council directs the Education Committee and the Division of Diné
Education to inform and educate Navajo schools, parents, and voters
about the contents and consequences of this proposed initiative.
certify that the foregoing resolution was duly considered by the Navajo
Nation Council at a duly called meeting in Window Rock, Navajo Nation,
(Arizona), at which a quorum was present and that the same was adopted
by a vote of 64 in favor, 0 opposed, and 0 abstained, this 20th day of
Edward T. Begay,
----------------------------- End of Navajo Resolution -----------------
This brings to
the forefront, the issue of local control and the classic
problems of over centralizing policy to apply to all communities. All
communities do not have the same needs as others. To make
a blanket policy for all local school districts -- without regard to the
local needs of each community -- very often results in negative
consequences for many of the local communities that have needs
that are different from the mainstream. And of course, the Native
American tribes are some of the many communities that would be
negatively impacted by Prop 203.
reason as well as others, Proposition 203 would be a very bad law and we
encourage all voters to vote NO on Proposition 203. This
particular issue may not affect your children now. However, if rights
can be taken away from one group in our community -- the day will come
when another group’s rights will be infringed, and another, etc.
Prop 203 was
designed to strip away the rights from Hispanic parents to
select for their own children. Since only 6% of all students in Arizona
are in Bilingual Education it is easy to see how the decision of this
minority group of parents is easily stripped from them by placing this
decision in the hands of voters not in need of bilingual
education. In an initiative, a majority can always over-rule and
suppress the rights of a minority. Let us be careful not to do this. Let
us keep the decision of what educational programs to give the children
in the hands of their parents and local school boards. Currently this is
the choice parents have. In fact, last year of the 16,000 parents with
children in Bilingual Education at TUSD only 66 chose to pull their
children from Bilingual Ed. The rest (99.6%) freely and overwhelmingly
chose to keep their children in Bilingual Education. (Dr. Leonard
Basurto, Tucson Unified School District, Arizona Daily Star, April
Prop 203 will negatively impact other language minority groups (Chinese,
Vietnamese, Russian, etc.) and as we now see, it will negatively affect
Native American parents and tribes in their effort to revitalize their
come to understand that, when rights are taken away from one
group, rights are taken away from all groups.
This is the reason that brought the founding fathers of this nation to
create the bill of rights. It was a marvelous principle of balancing the
rule of a majority so as not to run roughshod over the needs of a
minority or even the individual.
reasons we all need to defeat Prop. 203 and discourage all would-be
proposers of ill-conceived propositions that would restrict and
strip away the rights of parents and local school boards from
making the best decisions for THEIR own children.
Ron Unz -- the
author of Proposition 203 in Arizona -- is not the parent of any
children in Arizona, and is not elected or appointed to any of the local
school boards in Arizona. He is not an educator and has absolutely no
education or expertise in the field of language acquisition. In fact,
Ron Unz isn’t even a resident of Arizona. Why then should Unz be
deciding policy for any students or parents in Arizona by taking
advantage of a non-informed public through the initiative process? The
answer is Ron Unz or others like him, should not be.
And so we
encourage all voters to protect their own right of local control
and the right of all parents to decide for
their own children in education, and the rights of Native
Americans and their efforts to preserve their languages, by voting NO
on Proposition 203.
On Proposition 203 !
Bilingual Education Is
Beneficial For Native American Children