Proposition 203 is known as the law that banned bilingual learning for nonnative English speakers in 2000 and requires these students to spend a year in English immersion classes to learn the language.
Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman is making it her priority to repeal Proposition 203 by 2020.
“I support the repeal of Prop 203, Arizona’s English-only education law, because it hasn’t worked… We should be using evidence-based best practices and giving flexibility to school communities so our students can more quickly pick up their new language and succeed in the long-term,” Hoffman stated to ABC15.
Prior efforts have been made to remove Proposition 203. Republican Arizona Sen. Paul Boyer supported similar legislation last year, but the bill was never scheduled to vote, causing it to dissolve.
“There has been a lot of research that proves that children who speak their native language…and are forced to only speak in English lose the ability to speak their native language,” Flagstaff Community Christian School teacher Danielle Goldberg said.
English learning students are spending years in English Language Learners (ELL) classes, instead of the one year that is suggested by Proposition 203. These students are supposed to gain knowledge of the language in one year and then transition into their other courses.
Sophomore Vivian Nunez was one of these students. Her first language was Spanish, which she spoke regularly until she entered kindergarten. Once integrated into the education system, Nunez was placed in ELL classes.
Nunez found herself in ELL classes until she was in sixth grade. During her first three years, she struggled to understand the English language. It was not until she became friends with students whose first language was English that she began to use the language in a social context, which helped her learn better.
Proposition 203 came into effect in 2000. The vice president of the Arizona Education Association, Marisol Garcia, said this law was introduced when people did not know about linguistics or learning a second language.
Garcia said the year-long English immersion method has proven not to work, has no efficiency and is hurting the children far more than helping.
“They would take me out of my classes for an hour to go to my ELL classes and practice English," Nunez said. "Sometimes that hour would be in the middle of math or science, so I would fall behind.”
SB 1014, proposed by Boyer earlier this year, scaled back the English only education requirements.
English learning students spent four hours per day in ELL classes prior to SB 1014. The bill cut the ELL class times in half, requiring students to spend two hours in these classes.
Because of the bill, schools and ELL instructors have more flexibility to teach their students in ways that, from their understanding, would benefit the students.
Goldberg’s students learn math one day and matemáticas the next. Goldberg said she switches the language to help her students have a smooth transition from one to the other. She is able to do this because of the freedom provided by this new law.
Data collected by the Department of Education shows the 2017 graduation rate of "Limited English Proficient" students is roughly 40%.
Data showing the lack of results of Proposition 203 leads both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to support the decision to repeal the proposition in 2020.