Arizona law worries non-native educators

“With the recent state legislation targeting undocumented immigrants in Arizona and other legislation banning ethnic studies in Arizona, TESOL and AZ-TESOL are deeply troubled by what appears to be an environment of fear and xenophobia being fostered by lawmakers in the state without consideration of the consequences upon student learning and achievement,” the groups said.

“This impacts all educators and students, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who speak a language other than English. The right of undocumented students to a K-12 public education has long been protected under U.S. law. TESOL and Arizona TESOL strongly urge lawmakers and education officials in Arizona to ensure that the education of all Arizona schoolchildren is not harmed by these developments, and that the right of all educators to be treated fairly and equally is protected.”

The ethnic studies legislation cited by TESOL prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race, or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.

The new law reportedly targeted a program in the Tucson Unified School District that offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American, and Native-American studies, focusing on history and literature and including information about the influence of a particular ethnic group.

For example, in the Mexican-American Studies program, an American history course explores the role of Hispanics in the Vietnam War, and a literature course emphasizes Latino authors. About 1,500 students at six high schools are enrolled.

State schools chief Tom Horne said he believes the district’s Mexican-American studies program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people. Public schools should not be encouraging students to resent a particular race, he said.

Sean Arce, director of the district’s Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson, said last month that students perform better in school if they see in the curriculum people who look like them. The district is 56 percent Hispanic, with nearly 31,000 Latino students.

“It’s a highly engaging program that we have, and it’s unfortunate that the state Legislature would go so far as to censor these classes,” Arce said.

The law doesn’t prohibit classes that teach about the history of a particular ethnic group, as long as the course is open to all students and doesn’t promote ethnic “solidarity” or resentment.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


TESOL and AZ-TESOL joint statement on the Arizona Fluency Initiative

Arizona Department of Education

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