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Horne: Teaching ELL students in dual language model violates AZ law

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne says public schools that allow English Language Learners (ELL) to use the “50-50” dual language model are violating state law and risk losing state funding. 

But more than 20 advocates for the program signed up to speak  at a meeting of the Arizona State Board of Education on Monday, June 26. They want the model to remain an option for ELL students.

In 2019, the board approved four instruction models for ELL students, including the dual language option, which allows students to learn for half the day in English and the other half in a different language. The Arizona Department of Education is now telling schools to use one of the three other models.

Lucinda Brunenkant is a principal at a school that uses the "50-50" model. She said if Horne gets what he wants, students whose first language is English, but want to learn Spanish, could enroll in dual language classes no problem. But students who speak only Spanish would have to pass a test before enrolling in the same program.

“Putting a test before them is discrimination," Brunenkant said. "It is not fair. It is not right and I plead that you really think about this and what you’re doing to our kids.”

Horne said the dual language model violates Proposition 203. The measure, passed by voters in 2000, requires ELL students to be taught only in English.

According to ADE, 26 districts or charters could be out of compliance.

Horne is a proponent of Structured English Immersion, which some have likened to segregation. Georgina Monsalvo works for Stand for Children Arizona and was an ELL student herself.

"I was segregated for four hours a day to learn English, missing core content," Monsalvo said. "When these new models were approved in 2020, it gave school districts the ability to decide what model fit their community." 

Horne said the lack of enforcement of Proposition 203 has led to a drop in K-12 English proficiency.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.