Mandate on English learning protested
June 6, 2008
TUCSON - Two
Tucson school districts say they can do a better job of teaching English to
non-English speakers and they intend to seek alternatives to a teaching mandate
from the state Legislature.
In 2006, the Legislature mandated that students not proficient in English must
be segregated four hours a day to learn English beginning with the 2008-09
Administrators in the Sunnyside and Tucson unified school districts contend the
requirement is unfair, too long and will prevent students from taking other
would cut the four hours of immersion to two hours.
Called the "2 plus 2 plan," the other two hours would be spent in integrated
subjects other than English, where students would learn academic concepts in
addition to receiving specialized English support.
TUSD currently has about 8,000 students who are English-language learners while
Sunnyside has about 4,000.
The Tucson unified district includes schools in the central portion of the city,
and the Sunnyside district encompasses the southern part of the city.
Both districts said they haven't received word whether their plans will be
approved and don't expect to until Friday.
That's when the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force may decide on
alternatives proposed by the two Tucson districts and other school districts
across the state.
Steve Holmes, the Tucson Unified School District's assistant superintendent for
teaching and learning, said TUSD has already prepared for the 2 plus 2 plan.
TUSD and Sunnyside officials said they don't plan to sue over the issue at this
"We have received some guidance from OCR (federal Office of Civil Rights), but
we have not spoken to any attorneys about this," Holmes said.
Sunnyside school district parents said they are concerned that four hours a day
of English will keep their children, especially those in high school, from
taking the classes they need to graduate in four years, said Jeannie Favela,
assistant superintendent for student services.
"If they keep getting farther and farther behind in core classes because they're
only in English immersion and, as a result, don't pass AIMS, how are they going
to graduate?" she asked.
Julia Lindberg, Sunnyside's director of language acquisition and development,
said she is concerned about the state plan because there is very little time for
math, science and social studies and no time for electives.
"It prevents English-language learners from having the same quality education
day that our English-speaking students have," she said.
"We don't want to go back to the days where students were segregated. We've
gotten past that and we don't want to go back."
The subject of money to fund ELL programs is also at stake.
More than 100 Arizona school-district superintendents protested a lack of
funding for the state plan earlier this year at the state Capitol.
School districts across the state initially said they would need between $275
million and $300 million to implement the state model.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne estimated the cost at $20
Lawmakers came up with $40 million.
But $40 million is what TUSD officials initially estimated that district alone
would need to pay for teachers, extra classrooms, training, supplies and testing
materials, among other things.
Horne is telling schools this week they shouldn't avoid enrolling students in
immersion classes while the funding issue is debated.