Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0424bilingualed24.html

Bilingual debate continues
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 24, 2003 12:00 AM
Pat Kossan

Tucson activist Maria Mendoza told a crowd Wednesday that she's ready to get tough with educators unwilling to abide by a law that prohibits bilingual courses in Arizona schools.

"The possibility is not a threat, it's a promise," said Mendoza, who was one of about 120 people who gathered at the Department of Education
to discuss enforcing Arizona's English-only law. Mendoza is among those who see the law as a way to help Latino students do better in school.

The small room, an attempt to limit speakers, and the lack of a Spanish translator brought jeers from the group. State schools chief Tom Horne extended the meeting so a second group of parents waiting outside the room could be heard.

"We wanted to make sure it was a constructive dialogue," Horne said about the two police officers who also attended, "and not the Jerry Springer Show."

A law limiting Arizona teachers to using primarily English to teach immigrant children was passed by about 61 percente voters in 2000. New enforcement guidelines issued by Horne in February would shut down many bilingual programs next year.

The guidelines helped to reignite emotions that pitted Latino against Latino, teacher against teacher during the campaign. At the request of two lawmakers, the state attorney general is now deliberating the legality of Horne's interpretation.

Among those opposing the new guidelines was Phoenix mom Rosa Maria Siller, who wanted her gifted daughters to remain in classes
where they are learning to read and write in English and Spanish.

"We as parents should have the right to decide where our children go," Siller said. "If they fail they fail, but we have that right."