Dual-language programs in Arizona

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Dual-language programs have been the subject of a conflict between Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, and Attorney General Kris Mayes.

For students who are not proficient in English, dual-language programs teach them half of the time in English and half of the time in their native language. Superintendent Tom Horne, a foe of bilingual education, wants to defund those programs. Attorney General Kris Mayes said he does not have that authority. We discussed dual-language programs with Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association (AEA).

Arizona is the only state in the country with a law preventing students from being taught in other languages.

“Dual-language programs are extremely successful not just in the United States but throughout the entire world as a way for students to become multilingual learners. Less than 5% of these students have access to these programs. We are talking about less than a thousand children in the state,” Garcia said.

Horne is opposing dual-language programs because, he said, it’s against the law due to legislation that was passed 20 years ago which stated students could only be instructed in English. As a former teacher, Garcia said this led to many issues including segregating students due to their varying language levels.

“It also became a bureaucratic nightmare, tracing these kids, finding where should we put them, and the qualifications of teachers was also an issue,” Garcia said.

Garcia added there is a limited amount of dual-language programs in most communities. She said research by scientists was presented to legislators proving that teaching English-only language to students with a different primary language was a setback. Students were not becoming proficient in the English language and were losing their native language.

“Schools should be places where students feel that they can be themselves and speak their own language,” Garcia said.

Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association

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