Monday, August 2, 2021
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BILL WATCH: PROP 203 STUDENTS CAN ONLY LEARN IN ENGLISH

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DOES THIS DISCRIMINATE AGAINST AMERICANS?

In November 2000, Arizona voters approved Proposition 203 about Educational Policy. Public schools were required to adopt a Structured English Immersion (SEI) program. This program mainly concerned non-native English speakers. 

According to Proposition 203, SEI classes are taught in English only but modified to accommodate students’ developing proficiency in the language. SEI is provided “during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year.” After a year of SEI most learners are transferred to mainstream English-language classrooms. 

Supporters of Proposition 203 were insisting that English immersion is the most effective way to teach immigrant students – “young immigrant children can easily acquire full fluency in a new language, such as English, if they are heavily exposed to that language in the classroom at an early age.” Even though this point of view had little support in the educational or applied linguistics research literature, Arizona voters approved this measure by 63 percent.

The law allows parents to apply for waivers exempting their children from SEI program, but only if they meet one of the following conditions: (a) the children already know English; (b) are older than 10 years of age; or (c) have “special and individual physical or psychological needs.” Even so, doesn’t always guarantee the waivers will be granted.

Arizona wasn’t the only state to approve Proposition 203, as California and Massachusetts also supported the idea. However, in the past four years California and Massachusetts repealed anti-bilingual education laws which made Arizona the last one standing.

A study shows that bilingual education is more effective. Furthermore, it is true that it’s easier for children to acquire social or conversational language in a relatively short period, but their acquisition of academic English takes much longer.

This year lawmakers of Arizona promised to try again to repeal a 20-year-old Proposition 203. As of yet, there is no information regarding the process of this repeal.