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Education Reporter

Proposition 203 Wins Big!
Arizona voters dump bilingual ed

Ron Unz
PHOENIX, AZ - Fed up with the failure of bilingual education to prepare immigrant children for success in America, voters on Nov. 7 approved the controversial Proposition 203 by a margin of 63% to 37%. The measure repeals current bilingual education laws in Arizona and requires that all classes be taught in English.

Many citizens and organizations are applauding the victory. "We were elated that Proposition 203 won so overwhelmingly," said Arizona Eagle Forum President Susan Stradling. "The people of our state have finally put a cap on the dismal legacy of bilingual education."

The new law will allow pupils classified as "English Learners" to be placed in sheltered English immersion programs during a temporary transition period, but even these programs will provide instruction in the child's native language only "when necessary." All students from the 2nd through the 12th grades will be tested annually to monitor their progress in learning English and academics.

As he did in 1998 with California's Proposition 227, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz led the charge to pass the measure, along with Maria Mendoza, chair of English for Children-Arizona, and co-chair Hector Ayala. "Because of the victory of our California initiative," Unz asserted, "nearly all immigrant children there are now being taught in English as soon as they begin school. As a result, test scores have increased an average of 20%." Unz provided much of the financing for the Arizona campaign, as he did for the California effort.

Mendoza charges that Arizona's failed bilingual system "has inflicted much educational harm on tens of thousands of innocent Hispanic children." During the campaign, she stated that nearly 100,000 children in Arizona's public schools don't know English, and that bilingual ed programs have a 95% failure rate. "Many of these children eventually leave school unable to read, write, or even speak English properly," she said.

Mendoza asserts that the only people who support bilingual education are "those making money from this huge failed government program - the teachers, administrators and professors, and the politicians they control." She decried the fact that "the bilingual education industry makes extra money for every child who doesn't know English, so they sometimes even force young Hispanic children who already know English into their program against their parents' wishes."

Currently, Arizona school districts receive additional state funds for "English Learners" with no specific time limit attached. Proposition 203 will limit the amount of time students may remain eligible for those funds. According to a Legislative Council analysis, the measure could potentially save the state more than $20 million by 2004.

Opponents of Proposition 203 claim it denies students the right to receive instruction in their native tongue while they are learning English, and that it will limit parental involvement in education. Another argument is that it threatens efforts to revive the tribal languages of Native American Indians. While Unz admits he's not sure how the law will affect Native Americans, he told the Arizona Republic (9-17-00) that he believes the impact will be minimal, because "federally recognized tribal sovereignty should allow Native tribes to override Proposition 203."

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