Education Advocates Discuss Fixes Needed To Better Support Latino Students

Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 2:04pm

Better representation in Arizona's teacher workforce and a repeal of a 2000 policy known as the "English only" education law are two barriers that need to be removed to better Latino students, said education advocates during a Tuesday webinar hosted by the Arizona Capitol Times. 

Proposition 203 was passed in 2000 with the intention of improving language acquisition for non-English-speaking parents. It largely blocks non-English speaking students from receiving instruction in their native language. It also places these students in sheltered English immersion programs, which essentially segregates them, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. 

This law has done more harm than good for bilingual Latino students, said Stephanie Parra, executive director of the nonprofit Arizona For Latino Leaders in Education, or ALL in Ed. 

“English learners are graduating at 47%," she said. "We also aren’t passing state assessments the way we should be. So we have set up an entire population and community in Arizona to fail.”

Hoffman and Parra support an ongoing effort in the Legislature to put Prop, 203 on the ballot, and possibly repeal it. In it's place Hoffman said she would like to see bilingual immersion programs, and a recognition that being multilingual sets up children for academic and economic success. 

Representation In Teacher Workforce 

Another need the advocates see is better Latino representation in the teaching profession. A report by ALL in Ed found that Latinos make up nearly half of students in the state, but only 16% of teachers. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman says she’s hoping to address this by supporting “grow your own” programs. 

“I’m encouraging all of our high schools across the state to offer an ed professions program in their high schools, which is essentially a career and technical education program for students interested in pursuing a teaching degree, and we do see success in recruiting students of color," she said.

The state Department of Education is also helping interested districts, such as the Washington Elementary School District, set up their own certification programs to make the process easier by providing necessary training in house. 

ALL in Ed has launched its own program, the Parent Educator Academy, that aims to create a pathway for parents interested in joining the teaching profession. 

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