No matter where you stand on the new Common Core standards, if you care about educational outcomes and equality in Arizona schools, you need to be researching your options before casting your ballot in the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race.
John Huppenthal, current Superintendent of Public Instruction, has recently been called on to resign (although he refused) due to blog posts where he said that people who received public assistance are “lazy pigs.” In a state where over 40% of students are Latino, it is also notable that he has called for the end of Spanish-language broadcasts and billboards. His election campaign signs say: “English for all students.” It’s abhorrent. While I recognize the importance of learning English, as a teacher, it is more important to me that students are able to learn the concepts and to become critical thinkers. They will learn English along the way – and we should be looking at the best way to teach immigrant students (or the children of immigrants). It is not helpful to strictly follow the dogma of “English only” in our education system. How could you possibly expect a Spanish-speaking student to automatically be able to learn history, math, and science when it is taught in a language that he or she does not understand?
I will never understand why we are not raising all of our children to be bilingual, especially in the Southwest where we have such a large number of students who speak Spanish or have family members that speak Spanish. Instead, we end up with students who no longer know their native language, cannot converse with extended family members who only speak Spanish, and at the same time, have barely grasped the basics of English. English Language Learners “receiving all of their instruction in English were almost three times as likely to be in special education as those receiving some native language support” (keep in mind, special education services are not cheap, and you know who foots that bill). They are also 15-20% more likely to drop out of high school. This is not good for anyone – unless you’re looking for cheap labor.
Of course, Huppenthal’s racist and elitist comments are not surprising for those of us that live in Arizona and/or have been following the political discourse in which Huppenthal has been engaged. Afterall, he led the fight that resulted in the termination of the Mexican-American studies program in Tucson Unified School District. He wanted (and temporarily achieved his goal) to dismantle this program that improved Latino standardized test scores and graduation rates. This makes no sense unless you are a complete racist and are subconsciously afraid that educational advancement will lead to more Latinos in power and less cheap labor. Luckily for Tucson, the Mexican-American studies program was quietly reintroduced last year.
I have only just started looking into my other options when I cast my ballot for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but I know for sure who won’t be getting my vote…