2000 measure adds steps for bilingual education
August 11, 2005


By Carmen Duarte

An estimated 60,000 students will attend Tucson Unified School District schools this school year.

About 12 percent of those are designated as English language learners, said Steve Holmes, director of Language Acquisition Services for the district.
Most of those students' first language is Spanish. However, there are more than 100 languages spoken by students enrolled in the district's schools, including Vietnamese, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Somali.
Arizona voters approved Proposition 203 in 2000 and it went into effect in 2001, endorsing teaching students in English, whether they know the language or not.
Bilingual teachers are allowed to teach in Spanish and English as students learn both languages. About 20 of TUSD's 106 schools offer such programs.
Under the law, said Holmes, a student can qualify for bilingual education:
● By being proficient in English as a first language and not having to be tested.
● By passing an oral exam. Children who must be orally tested include those whose primary language is not English, those in homes where the language most spoken is not English, or children whose first language learned was not English.
● If the school principal believes bilingual education is the best program for a child 10 or older to learn English.
● If a parent writes a 300-word essay showing there are circumstances outside academics that affect a child's ability to learn.
The child must be in the classroom for 30 days before this request can be made. The superintendent can approve or deny the parent's request for a waiver.
Parents must visit the school their child will attend and request a waiver. School personnel can inform parents about bilingual education during discussions of educational options available for students, said Holmes.
However, no district personnel can recruit a parent or guardian to enroll a child in bilingual education, Holmes said.
If a waiver for a child to enroll in a bilingual program is approved, but the school the child will attend does not have a program, the parent has the right to ask for a transfer to a school that offers bilingual education. The district must provide transportation for the student, Holmes said.
● Contact Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or cduarte @azstarnet.com.