By Daniel Stefanski |
Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction is continuing his two-front political battle with the state’s attorney general.
On Monday, Republican Superintendent Tom Horne emailed the Office of the Arizona Attorney General about the issue of enforcing the state’s voter-approved English language instruction model.
Horne highlighted that “the voter-protected initiative, formalized as A.R.S. §15-752, specifically states that ‘all children in Arizona public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English, and all children should be placed in English language classrooms.’ ….The voter-protected initiative is not subject to being overruled by the Attorney General, the State Board, or anyone, including me. I must faithfully execute the law as it is written.”
The email from Horne followed correspondence between a Section Chief Counsel in Attorney General Kris Mayes’ Office and Horne’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) noted that they had “continued to receive complaints from school districts that claim ADE is requiring Waivers for any ELL students enrolling in Dual Language Immersion (DLI) classes. If that is so, ADE (Arizona Department of Education) is acting contrary to law, as Waivers are not required for Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Models approved by the State Board of Education.”
The AGO warned that “If the Department continues to place barriers in front of schools and their students trying to register for DLI classes, like requiring Waivers under A.R.S. 15-753, the Department’s actions exposes the Agency (and potentially individuals) to legal liability.”
The Superintendent took issue with the AGO’s use of “barriers” in its email, countering, “It is not erecting a barrier that I have urged school districts to not violate the law. I have pointed out a provision of the statute: Under the initiative, if a parent of any student in Arizona sues and prevails for violation of the statute, the School Board members and Superintendents responsible can be removed from office and unable to run for election again for five years.”
Horne called the AGO’s warning “offensive and unworthy of the Attorney General’s office.” He predicted that Mayes would “not win legal arguments to ignore voter-protected initiatives by making those kind of empty threats.” He promised to remain committed to his duty to uphold state law regardless of the threats made against him and his office.
He then took time to tout the benefits of a structured English immersion model, saying, “When I took office in 2003, bilingual education was common. The one-year rate to become proficient in English was a pathetic 4%. At that rate almost no one would ever become proficient, and they would fail in the economy…After we adopted structured English immersion, and put a lot of emphasis on teaching teachers how to do it, the proficiency rate went up to 31%. At that rate, after three or four years, almost everyone becomes proficient.”
In conclusion, Horne exhorted the AGO to “pay attention to what is in the academic interests of the students, as shown by the data, and what is required by the voter-protected initiative, and stop making threats.”
The schools chief’s release added that “Horne intends to pursue this matter in a legal challenge,” assuring Arizonans that this saga between the two state officials would continue for months to come.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.