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Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman wants it repealed.
Republican State House Education Chair Michelle Udall and Vice Chair John Filmore want it repealed.
Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee wants it repealed.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:
“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