Yet the plan is raising
eyebrows among some education experts across the country. One school district,
Sahuarita Unified, near Tucson, even rejected the plan for most of its
elementary school students, saying it worried the Office of Civil Rights would
find it discriminatory.
Patricia Gandara, an education professor and co-director of the Civil Rights
Project at UCLA said, "There is a lot of discussion around the country that this
is ripe for a lawsuit."
Arizona State University Professor Jeff McSwan has also voiced concerns about
the program, specifically that the models were based on flawed interpretations
He also said much of the focus is on overt language instruction, such as
drilling verb tenses, instead of learning the language in a more natural
"Our state is enacting educational policy not based on consideration for what is
the best, most effective way of teaching kids," McSwan said. "Our state is
enacting educational policy based on ideological commitments to notions that are
entirely unrelated to education. They're related to immigration, and anxiety
about the predominance of other languages in our society."
State schools Superintendent Tom Horne disagrees. "I think within two years,
you'll see a dramatically higher rate of students being classified as knowing
English, this will be a tremendous benefit for them," he said.
Horne brushed aside concerns over possible civil rights violations.
"There's a court case that says it is not segregation for a school to
temporarily, for educational purposes, put them in a different classroom. That's
the only way to make them successful. You don't make them successful by putting
them in a class where they have no idea what's going on because they can't speak
English," Horne said.
The Arizona Legislature created the new education policy in a response to a
class-action lawsuit that challenged the adequacy of funds being spent to help
students who are learning the English language.