Arizona: English Language Learners: Funding hike OK'd

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Mar 6 14:06:04 UTC 2006

Friday, March 3, 2006
English Language Learners: Funding hike OK'd; bill sent to governor
It's the latest effort to resolve an issue that has led to $22 million in
fines for state.


from the Tucson Citizen

Juan Ayala is in the middle of a battle, and he doesn't even know it. He,
and about 150,000 other students learning English in Arizona public
schools are surrounded by politicians on one side and the federal courts
on the other. In between are educators, parents, and the governor. The
state Senate yesterday narrowly approved the latest Republican bill to
revamp instructional programs for students learning English in an attempt
to resolve an issue that has seen the state accumulate at least $22
million in daily fines imposed by a federal judge. The Senate's 16-13
vote, nearly along party lines, completed action by the Republican-led
Legislature on the bill, HB2064. It was sent to Democratic Gov. Janet
Napolitano yesterday, and spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said the governor
planned to act on the bill today She has vetoed three previous bills.

The bill would increase the state per-pupil supplemental funding for
English Language Learners, known as ELLs, from $355 to $432 and give more
funding based on actual costs incurred implementing new state
instructional models. Unaware of the battle, 10-year-old Juan finishes a
science project at Los Amigos Elementary School. "Does anyone speak
Spanish? I need to ask Juan if he has a green balloon,"  a classmate of
Juan's said. "Yeah," another boy said, and then turned to Juan and said -
in English - "Hey, Juan, do you have a green balloon."

After hearing his friend speak in English, Juan dug into his pocket,
pulled out a green balloon and handed it over. Juan is one of a handful of
fifth-graders in teacher Craig Montgomery's class who is learning English
in a classroom where the teacher isn't allowed to teach in Spanish. That's
been the law since Arizona voters in 2000 approved Proposition 203, which
banned bilingual education and required schools to teach students who knew
little or no English in structured English immersion classes, where
students hear almost no Spanish. Juan, from Nogales, Son., is in his first
year at a school in the United States. He's one of 5,258 ELL students in
the Sunnyside Unified School District. Last year about 18,500 students
were identified as ELL in Pima County.

The largest number of ELL students is in the Tucson Unified School
District, the second-largest district in the state. There, between 7,500
and 8,000 children are learning English. Most of those students at TUSD
are in ELL classes. Only 10 percent to 12 percent are in a bilingual
program. To move into a bilingual program, a student needs to "test out"
by showing proficiency in English. Some ELL students and their families
prefer total English immersion, saying it's faster than a bilingual, or
dual-language program. "Some kids get sad because our teacher doesn't
speak Spanish, but I think we learn English faster that way," said
7-year-old Jesus Valenzuela, a first-grader at Los Nios Elementary. He
says not all of his friends are learning their new language at the same
rate. But for Jesus - the faster, the better. "It's easier in school now
that I know more English," he said.

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list