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Judicial Watch • Uproar Over Law Requiring Teachers To Speak Fluent English

Uproar Over Law Requiring Teachers To Speak Fluent English

Uproar Over Law Requiring Teachers To Speak Fluent English

MAY 04, 2010

Adding to the fury of Arizona’s new immigration control law, state education officials are being accused of racism for enforcing federal standards that require public school teachers to be fluent in English.

In order for schools to receive federal funding, students learning English must be instructed by teachers fluent in the language. The Arizona Department of Education recently began notifying school districts throughout the state that teachers who speak ungrammatical or heavily accented English must be removed from classes with students still learning the language, according to a national newspaper report.

The state has hundreds of teachers that were recruited from Latin America in the 1990s as part of an expansive bilingual education program. Their first language is Spanish and many speak English with a thick accent or drastic grammatical errors. When voters passed a ballot measure imposing that public school instruction be offered only in English, bilingual teachers who taught in Spanish switched to English.

Many don’t meet the federal fluency standards required by the bipartisan-supported No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted in 2001. Arizona education officials say a lot of schools are not complying with the law and it’s their duty to assure that the state’s 150,000 students with limited English have teachers who speak the language perfectly.

State education officials have dispatched auditors to identify teachers that don’t meet the criteria by evaluating them on comprehensible pronunciation, correct grammar and writing. Teachers that don’t make the cut have the opportunity to improve deficiencies with special courses and those who don’t can be reassigned to mainstream classes that don’t include students who are still learning English.

The crackdown illustrates Arizona’s “incredible anti-immigrant sentiment,” according to a highly regarded professor at one of the state’s top public universities.

Arizona lawmakers were already under intense fire for passing a measure that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation, allows local police to enforce immigration laws and punishes anyone—documented or undocumented—seeking work from a road or sidewalk. Immigration advocates claim the law is racist, draconian, un-American and unconstitutional among other things.


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