Is 2020 the Year the Arizona ELL Law Comes off the Books?


Will the political stars finally align to repeal the law (Proposition 203) mandating English Only Instruction for students with limited English Proficiency in 2020?

Proposition 203, passed in 2000, has not yielded the hoped-for outcomes as English learners have fallen behind in both English acquisition and mastery of other core and elective subjects children cannot fit into their class schedules.

In 2017, only 40 percent of English only learners graduated high school.

In 2018, the number of graduates was at 48 percent.

In 2019, only five percent of English only students passed the English Az Merit Exam and only nine percent mastered the Math one.

Arizona is now the only state left in the country (California and Massachusetts used to) that has this type of law on the books.

The move to jettison this proposition mandate has bipartisan support.

Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman wants it repealed.

Republican State House Education Chair Michelle Udall and Vice Chair John Filmore want it repealed.

Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee wants it repealed.

Steps were taken during the 2019 Legislative Session to mitigate and do away with the English Only Law.

The Arizona Legislature passed and Governor Ducey signed into law a bill sponsored by State Senator Paul Boyer that reduced the number of hours English Learner students had to spend in English only instruction blocks from four to two hours.

A proposal from Representative Filmore to refer the repeal of Proposition 203 to the ballot passed the House but was not taken up by the Senate as the legislative session ran out.

Prospects are looking better for repeal in 2020.

Speaking to ABC News in October 2019, State Senator McGee said that:

“Everybody, even my most conservative colleagues are for the repeal and that has been the case both times legislation has been offered. There are still some hurdles to overcome, but I am absolutely certain we will get there next session.”

 Writing an op-ed column in AZ Central-the Arizona Republic last November, Superintendent Hoffman offered a viable alternative to the current law, writing that:

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman

“Here’s the good news: we know which instructional models work best for students who are learning English. Research shows that bilingual or dual-language programs that provide instruction in both a student’s native language and in English are most effective in building English proficiency.”

 “One long-term study released in 2014 by researchers at Stanford University showed that EL students who received instruction in two languages eventually surpassed students who learned in monolingual environments, both academically and linguistically.”

 “Another study by the Rand Corp. showed that EL students assigned to dual-language programs reached English-proficiency faster on average than their peers learning in a monolingual environment.” 

 “And the benefits of bilingual education aren’t just limited to students who are learning English. The Rand study conducted in Portland Public Schools – which has offered dual-language programs since 1986 – showed that even native English-speaking students randomly assigned to dual-language programs outperformed their peers on state standardized tests.”

 Superintendent Hoffman went on further to cite the success of Nogales, a city that borders and reaches into Mexico as an example of how this dual language and multicultural approach yields positive results as evidenced by the school districts’ 98 percent graduation rate.   

 Hoffman, Filmore, Brophy McGee, and the others who favor repeal of Proposition 203 are right to want to replace a failed system with one that has demonstrated, through long term data, a proven track record of working and helping children.

Hopefully, 2020 will be the year when a bipartisan group of legislators set the wheels in motion to right a 20 year wrong and start the process to repeal Proposition 203 at the ballot box.


Featured Image from AzCentral









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David Gordon
Living in Arizona since his family moved to Tempe from New York in 1982, David Gordon has three degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Phoenix in History, Political Science, and Secondary School Administration. A highly qualified Social Studies instructor and Certified School Principal, Mr. Gordon owned his own charter school, Grand Canyon College Preparatory Academy from 1997-2016. The school served students in grades 6-12 in the East Valley of Maricopa County. Many of the graduates of GCP earned college credit for free while still attending high school, some completing the first year of college before graduating. Among the speakers at the school's graduations were noted figures in Arizona Politics like Harry Mitchell, David Schweikert, Juan Mendes, Andrew Sherwood, and John Huppenthal. Mr. Gordon also participated in the revisions of the Arizona History and Social Studies standards. In January 2017, Mr. Gordon started the political blog Twenty-First Century Progressive Bull Moose. It has a global following and routinely comments on the political events of the day. Mr. Gordon also helps administer the Facebook page Living Blue in Arizona. He is also currently writing a series of Young Adult science fiction novels which incorporate the themes of time travel and its impact on history. Mr. Gordon is very happy to be asked to join the Blog for Arizona team and hopes to spread the progressive word to make Arizona a better place for everyone.