Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0901englishonly01.html

Bilingual classes ending in Tucson
Associated Press
Sept. 1, 2003 12:00 AM

TUCSON - Students who were receiving bilingual instruction will be shifted to English-only lessons as a school district tries to keep its funding from being jeopardized.

On Friday, the Arizona Department of Education informed school officials that the state could withhold money if students were allowed to use waivers to receive bilingual instruction.

Officials from the Tucson Unified School District now must decide whether the teachers will keep the same class and teach only in English or if the students will be moved elsewhere. The change affects about 900 Spanish-speaking students attending bilingual classes.

"There are going to be nuances in every grade level and in every school," district Superintendent Stan Paz said. "We can't just make a blanket decision to comply with this regulation."

Until Friday, elementary students in Tucson who received waivers before Aug. 20 were allowed to attend bilingual classes. Those who took the proficiency test after Aug. 21 have to adhere to stricter standards to enroll in bilingual classes.

Arizona law requires classes to be taught in English. School districts used waivers to grant exceptions to the law for students whose test scores show they have limited English skills.

The disagreement stems from differing interpretations of the voter-passed initiative that replaces bilingual education with immersion instruction.

Tucson officials had argued that its interpretation of the policy followed state law because it honored earlier waivers while requiring new students to earn the higher rating on the English test.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who vowed to enforce the state measure, said once students demonstrate proficiency in English through testing they may take part in dual-language programs.

"There will be sanctions, yes," if Tucson doesn't comply with the state's demands, Horne said. School districts that don't follow the law can't apply for competitive grants, a major source of funding for some programs.

Arizona law also allows for lawsuits to be filed against School Board members and administrators who violate the requirements. They would have to pay for legal judgments out of their own pockets.