Contact Us




The Arizona Daily Wildcat Online





News Sports Opinions Arts Classifieds

Tuesday November 21, 2000

Football site
Football site
UA Survivor
Pearl Jam


Police Beat


Alum site

AZ Student Media

KAMP Radio & TV


Bilingual Battleground

Headline Photo

By Sheila Bapat

Consuelo Aguilar was a bilingual education student in elementary school. The program allowed her to become proficient in English while also learning in the language she was most comfortable with, Spanish.

Aguilar, now a UA freshman, did not attend a fancy-schmancy private elementary school that offered such a language curriculum. She attended Roberts Elementary School in Tucson.

Such bilingual education programs are clearly a benefit to many of this state's children. Despite this, voter ignorance, imbalance of resources and xenophobia were all too powerful on Nov. 7. The ideological pendulum swung pretty far right this election day, and the passage Proposition 203 was indicative of that.

"People think that since we're against Proposition 203 that we're against English immersion," Aguilar said. "And that's just not true."

Opponents of 203 are not likely to stand by and watch their right to a fair education get trampled by the state's conservatives.

For now, at least, the Arizona school districts will have to comply with the new law. They will soon begin erasing their existing bilingual programs and constructing an English immersion program. According to law this program must take effect for the 2001-2002 school year.

"Whether or not this time is sufficient, we will do it," said Estella Zavala, communications specialist for the Tucson Unified School District. "We're going to create English immersion classes."

Zavala said the transition is going to be a tough one.

"It's going to be a pretty involved process," Zavala said. "We're still looking at how we need to transition into the English-only program."

And eliminate the bilingual program in the process.

Zavala could not comment on how district officials, such as bilingual education director Leanord Basurdo, feel about the state forcing them to get rid of their bilingual programs. But it seems clear that the education experts who understand the benefits of bilingual education are not particularly happy with Proposition 203.

What many tend to forget is that bilingual education was a choice. Parents could choose an English-only curriculum for their children, or they could choose a bilingual track.

Now, it's English across the board.

Opponents of the measure were active on this campus, though their effort did not take full swing until very close to election time.

According to Luis Perales, an executive board member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) and a pre-health junior, there were not enough resources available to get the word out to the entire state, particularly in conservative Maricopa County.

"Groups that opposed Propositon 203, like Chicanos Por La Causa, didn't have enough money," Perales said. "I do see that there was a lack of information out there, but there was no money to get it out there."

On the other hand, the chief proponent of Propositon 203, millionaire Ron Unz of California, had about a million more resources to spread the word.

Others have claimed that getting rid of bilingual education is justifed because of a waiver program that can allow certain students to receive bilingual instruction.

"Funding for all bilingual education was eliminated with the proposition," Perales said. "How can you have a waiver for something that doesn't exist?"

It's a shame that a state like Arizona, where the education system is nationally ranked so poorly, would take such a rash and blatantly unfair measure like getting rid of bilingual education when the program benefits so many students.

The negative attitude toward multi-lingual and multi-cultural education is a sad reality that 203's passage confirmed.

Even more frightening are the racist ideas that some 203 proponents expressed. One man stood in our own Memorial Student Union handing out flyers that said, "WARNING! Welcome to an illegal alien state. Support Prop 203..."


Prop 203 is going to prove to be yet another debacle for the state's education system-a debacle for the students who deserve the kind of attention the state refuses to give them.

Its passage will undoubtedly reinvigorate fights in favor of bilingual education. If groups like MEChA keep working, the pendulum could swing the other way.

According to members of MEChA, Proposition 203 was a big battle. But they do not plan to lose the war.

"This is only the beginning," Aguilar said. "We're not going to sit back and let this slide."

Sheila Bapat is a political science junior. She can be reached at