Litigation Could Enforce English-Only Proposition

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Public educators in Payson and around the state are often the subjects of a dissatisfied minority who question the efforts and tax money that create language acquisition programs for students with limited English fluency.

A pending lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court, could give these opponents something to really crow about.

Tim Hogan, of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, filed the motion to force Arizona into providing supplies, special tutoring and well-trained teachers for students learning English.

If Hogan is successful, the legislature would be forced to provide the money schools need to educate students who are learning English.

Some said that when Arizona voters overwhelming passed Proposition 203 two years ago, the "English Only" measure would ban bilingual education for children learning English as a second language.

At the time the initiative passed, those working in English immersion programs at public schools rightfully contended that Proposition 203 was an exercise in micromanaging schools through the electoral process.

Lisa Graham-Keegan, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction at the time, was the among the first to jump on the Proposition 203 bandwagon, saying she was going to work with all schools in the state to develop an orderly transition process to an all-English curriculum.

As much as the former superintendent and other educators wanted to dictate guidelines for teaching language acquisition programs, Proposition 203 hasn't completely dismantled all bilingual options.

In the Payson Unified School District, where there is an ever-increasing population of Hispanic students, educators have been able to provide for the needs of ESL (English as a Second Language) students while working within the constraints of the initiative, and although local teachers have been successful thus far, the program needs more funding.

Around the state, educators continue to raise money for English learning programs.

When the money is there, the burden of establishing new language acquisition program and redesigning established ones, falls upon educators. In designing programs, those professionals should follow certain basic guiding principles.

The principles should center on providing a learning environment that supports the students' continued use of their native language, academic support for bilingual students and professional assistance in the homes to help improve the literacy of pupils entering the schools.

If public educators can successfully use the guiding principles, all students will eventually acquire English fluency, and there will be an improvement in multicultural awareness, academic progress and graduation rates.

Classrooms would also become places where varieties of languages are accepted and celebrated -- not feared as they were in Proposition 203.

A well-planned language acquisition curriculum at PUSD and around the country is a win-win situation for everyone.

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