AZ AG: public schools not exempt from Prop. 203

Don Osborn dzo at BISHARAT.NET
Thu Mar 4 16:56:40 UTC 2004

It may be worthwhile to make reference to the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights: (see, esp. in this context, section II on education).  It is not a binding inernational document as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but is gaining interest since its creation in 1996, and hopefully promoting discussion.

Don Osborn

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Matthew Ward 
  Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 4:54 PM
  Subject: Re: AZ AG: public schools not exempt from Prop. 203

  It's ironic:  to a certain degree, our national government has recognized the issue.  But, states are using the initiative process to allow urban newcomers to supress the languages of people who were there thousands of years before English even arrived.  

  I really believe that this needs to be publicized as much as possible, for a dual purpose:  to try to embarrass the state of Arizona into acting in a just way, and to help discredit the entire English-only movement.  One of the central planks of the English-only movement is the idea that English is the only language that can be considered "American."  That ideology is sick and wrong.  

  I've forwarded a copy of the article below to NARF, and written a letter to the Arizona Republic.  Here's a link to their Letters to the Editor dept:  I plan to try to do as I can to publicize this issue.  I do believe that if the American public knew about this issue, they would recognize the unfairness.  Any ideas for doing this would be much appreciated.  

  Matthew Ward

  Richard LaFortune wrote:

Interestingly, Andrew Dalby notes in his book,
Language In Danger (Columbia University Press,
"It took a sustained campaign of civil disobedience
before the British Government, in the 1960s,
grudgingly accepted its responsiblity to deal with
Welsh-speaking citizens in Welsh."
p 118 paragraph 2

Richard LaFortune

--- Matthew Ward <mward at LUNA.CC.NM.US> wrote:
  This is sickening and outrageous..  I'm amazed that
there haven't been
more responses to this article.  What century are we
living in, anyway?
 Sounds like it's time for major acts of civil
disobedience.  I'm sorry
to sound extreme, but anybody who voted for an
English-only law in
Arizona, of all places, needs to move.  And, the
idea that the law
applies to schools on reservations...  This really,
really needs to be
publicized.  If anyone can point me to an
organization fighting this, I
would be very grateful.

Liko Puha wrote:

    AZ AG: public schools not exempt from Prop. 203

By Bill Donovan - Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK - A couple of years ago, educators went
      on the offensive
    when Arizona voters went to the polls to decide
      whether English would be
    the only language that classes would be taught in.

At that time, a compromise was reached that public
      school educators
    thought would allow them an exemption so they could
      provide instruction
    in Native American languages in the early grades.

Boy, were they wrong.

Education officials for the state of Arizona are
      now saying that based
    on an opinion by the state's attorney general,
      public schools on the
    reservation have to comply with the English Only
      law (Proposition 203).
    Only Bureau of Indian Affairs schools are exempt.

"This is a major step backwards," said Deborah
    superintendent of the Window Rock Unified School
    Jackson-Dennison has got President Joe Shirley Jr.
      involved in her
    efforts to get the state to change its policy and
      exempt public schools
    on reservations that have a large Native American
      student population.
    Shirley and other tribal officials were in Phoenix
      Tuesday meeting with
    state education officials to get the matter
    What's at risk, Jackson-Dennison said, were Navajo
      language immersion
    programs like the one at Window Rock where students
      in the primary
    grades get instruction in their native language. As
      they get into higher
    grades, they receive more and more instruction in
    By doing this, she said, it now appears that school
      districts will be
    putting in jeopardy some of their state funding.

She said that on many state funding requests, the
      Arizona Department of
    Education has placed a new item asking districts if
      they are complying
    with the English Only law.

"The form gives us only two options - yes or no,"
      said Jackson-Dennison.
    "There is not a third option labeled 'exempt.'"

By filling out the "no" blank, public schools on
      reservations within the
    state are taking a definite risk of getting their
      application denied. If
    they mark "yes," programs like Window Rock's Navajo
      Immersion Program
    will be eliminated.

State school officials have made it very clear that
      classes - all
    classes - will be taught only in English.

Margaret Garcia-Dugan, associate superintendent for
      the Arizona
    Department of Education, said that while BIA
      schools are exempt from
    complying with Proposition 203, public schools are
    In a written statement, she said that "if a public
      school has a large
    Native American student population, it must still
      adhere to the
    provisions set forth in Proposition 203 regardless
      of whether or not
    that school is on a reservation.

"Proposition 203 does allow teaching other
      languages besides English as
    an elective (such as Navajo Language and Cultural
      Instruction)," she
    said. "All other courses such as history, math,
      English, and physical
    education are to be in (English Only) unless the
      student receives a

This, said Jackson-Dennison, doesn't make a lot of
      sense since federal
    statutes contain provisions that protect and
      encourage the development
    of native languages such as those offered within
      the Window Rock school

"The No Child Left Behind Act also encourages the
      teaching of native
    languages," she said.

Now, the state is coming in and saying that the
      school district could
    lose some of its state funding by following the
      federal laws and this
    isn't right, she said.

Rosalyn LaPier
Piegan Institute


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