Proposed Bill Would “Short-Change English Learners” Of Full Opportunity To Learn English

SCR1020 and HCR 2005 are moving through the Arizona legislature. ( Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture/Creative Commons)

This legislative session, English learners, mostly Latino students, are being shortchanged once again by some Arizona legislators who are supporting bill HCR2005.

This bill is nothing more than a warmed-over regurgitation of last session’s failed HCR2001. The 2020 incarnation of this horrible idea cleared the House Education Committee handily by a 10-1 vote. The only committee member with the wisdom and knowledge to oppose it was then Representative Barto of District 15. Fortunately, HCR2001 failed when it was held in the House Rules Committee.

Unfortunately, like an evil phoenix, this idea is being revived from its own ashes in the form of bill HCR2005, which is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday in the House Education Committee.

So, exactly what is wrong with this bill? First a little history. Back in 2000, Arizona voters approved Proposition 206 as a means of assisting non-English speaking students, mostly Latinos, in their quest to become proficient in English. The two major provisions of this proposition were that English learners be taught in classes where only English was spoken; and that students be tested in order to assess their progress. If the HCR2005 scheme succeeds, the provisions of Prop 206 will be trashed.

In determining if a bill is good or bad, it is always a good idea to read the text of the bill. This can be accomplished by going to

https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HCR2005P.htm

The legislature’s website also provides a summary of the provisions of bills like this. Of the many provisions contained within this bill, the following two are the ones that make its enactment an extremely bad idea:

1) It repeals the requirement that all children in Arizona public schools be taught English through English language instruction in English language classrooms.

2)  It repeals the mandate that all public school students in grades 2-12 be given a standardized, nationally-normed written test of academic subject matter in English at least once a year.

It is apparent to even the most casual of observers that the politicians who support HCR2005 have never experienced the joy of learning a foreign language in a foreign land. If they had, they would most likely have a different opinion.

This writer has, and it entailed total English immersion, with results that many would consider successful.

In addition to people who have experienced learning English via total immersion, many experts agree that is the best way if the goal is to provide English learners with a path to success. One such expert is former Superintendent of public Instruction Diane Douglas, who has been intimately involved in education during most if not all of her professional life. She summarizes her opinion of HCR2005 as follows:

“In my experience parents of English Language Learners want their children to learn to speak, read and write English as quickly and efficiently as possible for success in their education and their futures. That success comes from English Immersion – the Law of the Land in Arizona. Why educrats, lobbyists and now legislators, Republican legislators, are so diligently working to dismantle English immersion programs and student success is beyond me.”

Another expert, Johanna Haver, has spent decades teaching English to non-English speaking students in Europe, Asia, and America. She has even written, and published, books on the subject. Her opposition to this bill is illustrated by her statement on the matter:

“Gives districts authority to short-change mostly Hispanic English learners on English instruction by limiting it to as little as 10% of their school day. This enables districts to use money solely meant for English learners on non-English learners in dual-language programs”.

Voters who are concerned about this should express their opinions to the members of the House Education Committee via email or phone call using the following information:

Members of the House Education Committee:

NAME E MAIL PHONE-602
Beverly Pingerelli BPINGERELLI@azleg.gov, 926-3396
Joel John JJOHN@azleg.gov, 926-3276
Quan Nguyen QNGUYEN@azleg.gov, 926-3258
Frank Pratt FPRATT@azleg.gov, 926-5761
Bret Roberts BROBERTS@azleg.gov, 926-3158
Michelle Udall (*) MUDALL@azleg.gov, 926-4856
Jennifer Pawlik JPAWLIK@azleg.gov, 926-3193
Daniel Hernandez DHERNANDEZ@azleg.gov, 926-4840
Athena Salman ASALMAN@azleg.gov, 926-4858
Judy Schwiebert JSCHWIEBERT@azleg.gov, 926-3390

(*) Committee Chairperson