Published May 22, 2010
After passing the nation's toughest state immigration enforcement law, Arizona's school officials are now cracking down on teachers with heavy accents.
The Arizona Department of Education is sending evaluators to audit teachers and their English speaking skills to make sure districts are complying with state and federal laws.
Teachers who are not fluent in English, who make grammatical errors while speaking or who have heavy accents will be temporarily reassigned.
"As you expect science teachers to know science, math teachers to know math, you expect a teacher who is teaching the kids English to know English," said Tom Home, state superintendent of public instruction.
In 2000, voters passed a referendum which stipulated that instruction of these classes be offered only in English. Then in 2003, President Bush's No Child Left Behind act stated schools couldn't receive federal funding unless an English teacher was totally fluent in the language.
For the most part, the state is in compliance, but not all teachers are up to standards. Of the 236 total districts in the state, nine were cited for not being in compliance with fluency regulation this year.
Critics say with deep cuts to education thanks to the failing economy, the state should focus elsewhere. The Arizona Education Association, a union representing some 34,000 teachers, refused speak to Fox News.
Of the 1.2 million students in Arizona public schools, roughly 150,000 are learning English as a second language.
"It's my jobs to make sure they're taught English in the most rigorous, possible way so they can learn English quickly, can compete with their peers, and succeed academically," Home told Fox News.
The state says this move has nothing to do with the new law that requires police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the United States illegally.
In Creighton School District, 35 percent of students are "second language learners," said Superintendent Charlotte Boyle.
"In Creighton's school district, we do have several teachers who do not pass the fluency test," she said.
"For the past several years, we have provided opportunities for those teachers to increase their fluency," she said. "We have enrolled them in community college classes. We also have classes within our district for those teachers."