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Poll: Arizonans want dual-language instruction, support repeal of English-only standards

By: - May 2, 2019 5:06 pm

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Arizonans would support a ballot initiative to repeal the state’s English-only law, a poll shows.

About 67 percent of respondents agree with the dual-language immersion approach to teaching English to students who don’t already speak it, while 24 percent said they would keep the current Structured English Immersion standard, according to the poll from Public Opinion Strategies, a prominent national polling firm. 

Currently, students in Arizona classrooms who speak a language other than English at home are placed in Structured English Immersion programs. That’s thanks to a voter-approved law from 2000.

Dual-immersion programs allow schools to mix native English-speakers and students learning English in the same classroom. While the main goal of English-only programs is proficiency and literacy in English, dual-immersion aims for students to be bilingual and biliterate in English and another language.

The poll was conducted from April 23 through 25, and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points. Helios Education Foundation and UnidosUS, a Latino advocacy group formerly known as National Council of La Raza, paid for the poll.

It asked respondents to side with a position they most agree with. Those were:

  • Yes – “Those who support the YES position say we want all children to master the English language. However, experts and research has demonstrated that a dual language immersion approach may help them reach mastery and actually further their education rather than risk dropping out or falling begin in an English-only approach.”
  • No – “Those who support the NO position say voters have already voted on this issue to support English-only immersion and have determined it is best for the children and their future success to learn English as quickly as possible.”

This question had the strongest support among people age 18 to 34 (89 percent), and the largest cohort in opposition were those between 55 and 64 year-old (39 percent).

The polls shows strong support across the political spectrum, with 62 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents agreeing with the ‘Yes’ statement.

A bill that would send a repeal of the English-only law to a ballot referral is close to approval in the legislature.

House Concurrent Resolution 2026, proposed by Rep. John Fillmore, an Apache Junction Republican, is awaiting a final roll call vote in the Senate.

HCR 2026 would open up dual-immersion programs to English learners. Arizona law requires English learners to be placed in English-only classrooms.

Fillmore’s proposal would require that English learners “receive the highest quality of education, master the English language, and have access to high-quality, innovative research-based language programs.”

HCR2026 is another move by state legislators to reform how Arizona schools teach its 79,000 English learners. One of the first bills Gov. Doug Ducey signed this year, Senate Bill 1014, eliminates a rigid daily four-hour bloc of instruction viewed by some as segregation. This new policy reduces the required minimum to two hours and allows school administrators to decide how to schedule that time.

Fillmore’s proposal goes much further than SB1014 to dismantle decades-old educational policy focusing solely on English and asks voters to favor bilingualism.

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