NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bilingual Education In Arizona -- Reform Or Abolition?

May 3, 1999

Arizona legislators are fed up with the failures of bilingual education and are considering bills to drastically reform it. Meanwhile, a petition drive is underway for a referendum to abolish it altogether.

The bilingual education movement originated in Arizona.

  • Although Arizona's program costs $70 million, legislators say bilingual instruction works for only 7 percent of students.
  • The Tucson school district -- which has 12,000 students in bilingual classrooms -- reports that only 3.2 percent of them learned enough English last year to be reclassified as fluent and moved into mainstream classes.
  • The high school English teacher who started the referendum drive states that bilingual students read at only a third- grade level in high school and are dropping out at a rate twice that of Anglos.
  • He says that some Hispanics are clinging to bilingual education -- even though it doesn't work -- because it was one of their most prominent civil rights gains in the 1960s.

The issue has reportedly split Hispanic communities. One Democratic state senator wants more money to hire skilled bilingual teachers and to monitor the progress of bilingual students. Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez, a former union organizer and one-time aid to U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is demanding $2,000 raises for bilingual teachers.

Source: Dave Boyer, "Two Tongues Debate a Program's Failures," Washington Times, May 3, 1999.


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