Horne: Schools using 50-50 dual language model violating state law, risk losing funds

Photo Courtesy Tom Horne: State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne says schools teaching in Spanish violate state law.

Violation of voter-approved English immersion law

Contributed Article/Courtesy Arizona Department of Education

PHOENIX – State schools superintendent Tom Horne has announced that public schools that are not teaching English Language Learners in English as required by state law risk losing funds for this legal violation.

Horne stated, “Proposition 203, the voter-protected initiative passed in 2000, specified that classes for English Language Learners must be taught in English: ‘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.’ Dual language classes, typically taught for half of each day in Spanish, are an obvious violation of this initiative. A reduction in structured English immersion from four hours to two is okay, but the rest of the day must be spent in regular classrooms with the English-speaking students, not in classes taught in Spanish.”

While this conclusion is obvious based on the wording of the voter-passed initiative, Horne also cites a memorandum from the Arizona Legislative Council that concludes: “If the 50-50 dual language immersion model allows students to be taught subject matter in a language other than English as part of structured English immersion, the model likely violates Proposition 203.”

He added, “I want to emphasize that these rules only apply to students who have not yet attained proficiency in English. Once they attain English proficiency, we encourage dual language or any other programs, that will cause them to be proficient in more than one language. I personally have studied six languages. Knowing multiple languages is beneficial and develops the brain in ways that help learn other subjects.”

He concluded, “State law (A.R.S. §15-756.08) provides a District found in violation by the state board loses its access to English Language Learners funds.  Another statute (A.R.S. §15-754) provides that any parent can sue any school board member or other elected office or administrator responsible for the violation and that person can be personally liable for damages and fees and cannot be indemnified by any third party.  Any official found liable shall be immediately removed from office and cannot hold a position for five years.”