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Arizona 50-50 dual language advocates to present nearly 3,000 signatures to state board

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne says Arizona’s 50-50 dual language model is illegal,and he’s threatened to cut funding from schools that keep using it. But, advocates for the program continue to fight back, saying it’s an overreach of his authority.

A group called Stand for Children Arizona is leading the effort, asking the Arizona State Board of Education to address the matter. After all, they say, the board approved the 50-50 model as one of four English instruction options in 2019, 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.

In less than a week, Stand for Children Arizona has gathered nearly 3,000 signatures from people who want the 50-50 model protected. Government Affairs Director Daniel Hernandez said they plan to deliver the signatures to board members on Thursday, July 13.

“We are calling on the state board to have a special meeting before July 19, which is the date that the first school districts in Arizona get back into the semester," he said. "So that if they are using any of the four approved models, they have assurance that they won’t have any penalties.”

Horne said the model violates Proposition 203, which requires English-language learners to be taught only in English, unless they have certain waivers.

In an email to KJZZ News, he wrote: "I want to emphasize that we have not eliminated the fourth alternative passed by the state board. We are only requiring waivers that are required in the initiative that was passed by the voters, and that the state board has never sought to eliminate."

He added that the statements about the benefits of dual language by advocates are "anecdotal and are clearly contradicted by the real-world data."

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