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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

AZ leaders: Stop blaming the federal government for your missteps

It appears Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is continuing a time-honored tradition: Avoid all hard questions by demonizing the federal government. In this particular round of point-the-finger, Horne is dodging questions about the Justice and Education departments’ investigations into Arizona’s education system.

The Arizona Republic reported that the complaints allege that “”many thousands”” of children have been incorrectly reclassified as proficient in English and that students “”are not being served because they are not being identified”” as a result of flaws in the state’s home-language survey. The state is also under investigation for supposed discrimination against non-native English-speaking teachers.

The home-language survey, which was originally comprised of three questions, now consists of one: “”What is the primary language of the student?”” Since changes to the survey and proficiency tests were made, the state’s English Language Learners program has seen a drop of more than 30,000 students from the 2008-2009 school year to the next, according to KGUN9 reporter Tammy Vo.

Horne did not respond to the complaints by justifying the changes to the home-language survey or defending the English proficiency tests. Instead, he said, “”It may be that the Senate Bill 1070 issue is causing some sort of campaign, I don’t know, by the federal government against Arizona.””

In response to Vo’s questions, Horne called the investigations “”harassment”” and said, “”It’s an example of the irrational things the federal government is doing now because of Senate Bill 1070. The Obama administration is going after Arizona in every way they can.””

Vo’s question was, “”So, do you think the federal investigation is wrong?””

To recap, Horne responded that the federal government is irrational for investigating discrimination and possible violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But somehow, Horne is not irrational for immediately painting the state as a defenseless victim of federal bullying rather than just responding to the question?

The knee-jerk reaction is to ignore the point of the investigations and claim the state is being picked on for no reason: We, the people, are being stomped all over by the federal government. I, Tom Horne, am fighting it.

He really did say, “”This is why I’m running for attorney general, because we need someone to fight against these things.””

The reasonable answer, the kind that people should be able to expect from their officials, would have been to actually explain why the federal investigations are unnecessary.

Horne made references to S.B. 1070 and his campaign for attorney general. There was never an admission of responsibility for the proficiency tests (because the state buys them from a contractor, Horne said). There was also no precise reasoning for the changes made to the home-language survey. If it is true that the complaints have no standing, then they could be easily refuted by data that is actually relevant to the ELL program.

Horne would rather distract people, make them angry by telling them the federal government is trampling on their liberties. Play up a fear of “”big government”” by telling people that the federal government is abusing its power because it just doesn’t like this state.

Follow the formula and you don’t have to be accountable. Everything that is happening is the fault of the federal government — that bully.

The formula works, because you’re just taking it. Fearing that the reach of federal government has become too broad is valid. Blaming the federal government’s reach for every single issue is not. Know the difference.

Providing real answers is hard. But it should be a lot harder to accept nonsensical ones.

— Kristina Bui is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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