Attorney General Terry Goddard gave the go-ahead Monday for state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne to enforce new guidelines on when students can enroll in bilingual education programs.
Goddard said Horne’s plan, unveiled Feb. 12, complies with Proposition 203, approved by voters in 2000.
Proposition 203 spells out that all students must be taught in English, with those lacking sufficient language skills enrolled in immersion programs.
But the law also permits schools to keep students in bilingual programs — where subjects are taught in both English and the student’s native language — but only if they already have a command of English.
"The idea of a waiver is: If a kid is truly fluent in English, then a bilingual program is great (because) it’s adding another language,’’ Horne said.
Horne set the passing grade at four out of a possible five on a test, four being an "English speaker.’’ However, some districts were providing waivers to students who scored three out of five, Horne said.
Tucson Unified School District officials said that about 10 percent of the 5,826 Tucson students allowed to attend bilingual classes last academic year would be ineligible under the new rules.
Goddard’s opinion is a defeat for two Hispanic lawmakers who had challenged Horne’s authority to restrict bilingual enrollments: House Minority Leader John Loredo, D-Phoenix, and Senate Minority Whip Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville.
The attorney general said the state Board of Education — not Horne — has the power to determine what test is used to decide who gets a waiver. The board already has done that.
Goddard said Horne can set the minimum passing score for a waiver, but only if he provides a rationale for that decision.