'English-Only' Push Opposed in Ariz.
Tucson, Ariz--A coalition of educators, politicians, and community activists has announced plans to combat a proposed "English only" amendment to Arizona's constitution by promoting an alternative "common language" amendment.
At an Oct. 9 news conference here and in Phoenix, organizers of the new group, Arizona English, said their proposed amendment would require the state to expand adult-literacy programs and would protect the freedom of Arizonans to learn and use other languages.
The majority of immigrants and non-English-speakers want to speak English, said State Senator Peter Rios, in announcing the effort to collect the 130,048 signatures needed to place the issue on the Novemebr 1988 ballot.
But Arizona education officials have reported that at least 4,000 people in in the state are on waiting lists for adult-basic-education classes in English, he noted. "We want people to learn the English language without having them beat over the head, ridiculed, or put down because they speak another language," he said.
Leaders of the Arizona English movement said they offered an alternative to what they termed the "Divisive and racist" English-only drive launched by another group.
"We are promoting English proficiency, not English only," said State Senator Jaime Gutierrez.
Last month, an organization called Arizonans for Official English began a separate petition drive, seeking to place on next year's ballot a measure that would prohibit the state government from operating in two languages.
Arizonans for Official English is modeling its drive after last year's successful campaign in California to have English declared the state's official language, according to Robert D. Park, the chairman of the group and a former criminal investigator for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
(an Education WEek survey last June revealed that 12 states had enacted statutes making English their official language; debate over such measures was reported in 37 legislatures last year, the survey found.)
Ballots printed in English and other bilingual materials provided by the state government do not motivate people to learn English, Mr. Park argued.
Both groups have until July 7 to gather enough signatures to place their proposals on the 1988 ballot.