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Leadership of the "English for the Children of Arizona" Campaign

Maria Escalante Mendoza, Statewide Chair

Born in Texas. Educated in Mesilla and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Moved to Eloy, Arizona at the age of thirteen and continued my education through ninth grade. I have been a Tucson resident for forty-one years. In the fight for an equitable education for Hispanic children, I began to tackle bilingual education since its inception in Tucson in 1965. I have no doubt that bilingual education is the single most negative factor in the education of Hispanic students. I also began litigation against TUSD in 1974 on behalf of Hispanic students in a class action suit against discriminatory practices and inferior education for these children. From then to the present time I have been actively involved in improving the education of Hispanic children. Since beginning this organization I have been present on radio and television programs speaking against the inefficiency of bilingual education. I also have 400 hours of training in the Spalding Intensive phonics method under the tutelage of Mrs. Romalda Bishop Spalding, the originator of the program. I have three years of classroom experience in teaching phonics at the elementary level. I am a member of the Reading Reform Foundation, a clearing house for information on the nature of reading approaches.

Hector Ayala, Statewide Co-Chair

Born in Guaymas, Sonora. Immigrated into United States at the age of nine and learned to speak English through immersion in third grade. I spoke no English and my Anglo teacher spoke no Spanish. It took me one semester to converse in English with my friends. I graduated from Nogales, Arizona public schools and from the University of Arizona with a degree in English for secondary education. Subsequently I have amassed over forty hours of post graduate work in bilingual education and ESL. I have taught English at Cholla High School in Tucson, where about 53% of the population is Mexican-American, for twelve years. Our school is considered a "receiving school" at the end of a bilingual feeder pattern. Traditionally, most of our children enter with a third to sixth grade reading level. Every year, about six hundred freshmen enter our school; four years later, only two hundred graduate. I believe firmly that most of these kids drop out because of their inability to perform academically. Since starting English for the Children–Arizona I have spoken in several radio and television programs in Phoenix and Tucson, where the calls have been almost entirely in our favor.

Armida Edmondson

Born in Sonora, Mexico and attended first grade in private, parochial elementary school on the American side. My teachers were Anglo women from Michigan who spoke no Spanish, while I spoke no English. I eventually graduated from an American high school while still living in Mexico. I have since taken two years of early childhood education at Pima Community College in Tucson. I have two children, one has a degree in mechanical engineering and the other a degree in accounting, both from the University of Arizona. I have worked in Mexico teaching children English, where they learn fluency by the age of four. I was amazed to hear that in America parents are told that it will take their children several years to learn English, that they must first become literate in Spanish before they can learn English. This is ridiculous. I have seen at work the idea that children can learn a second language as naturally and easily as their native language.

Ernesto Badilla

I was born in Sonora, Mexico and moved to the U.S. as a young child. I attended Tucson schools through the twelfth grade. Following high school I attended the University of Arizona where I received a degree in elementary education. My course work included several mandated bilingual education courses which procured me a bilingual teaching certificate. My postgraduate studies include course work in the special education and rehabilitation program at the University of Arizona. My student teaching assignment began in a bilingual school, where I became more acutely aware of the inefficiency of bilingual education in preparing Hispanic students for academic success in the English speaking classroom. I currently teach at Los Amigos, a bilingual elementary school, where I have noticed the same inefficiencies in the bilingual education approach. My interest in abolishing bilingual education stems from my experiences within the program as an educator and observer. I have detected many serious shortcomings in the approaches to the education of Hispanic children. Whereas the focus of every bilingual program should be academic instruction in English and the development of proficiency in second language acquisition, I believe it has instead become interested only in the maintenance of a native language and culture.

Elia Cox

Born 8-4-57 in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico, and immigrated in 1962 into Nogales, Arizona. Finished my education through high school in Nogales, Arizona school system, in 1976. Attended college in 1976, eventually finishing 3 years. Have worked in law enforcement for nineteen years. Have one daughter aged 4 who I plan to register in private school because I care deeply about her education. I believe that the quality of education in public schools has deteriorated both in academics and discipline. I would never want her in bilingual education because I believe it contributes to poor education by detracting from teachers’ concentrating on core subjects. I have seen bilingual education become an obstacle to Spanish-speaking children becoming proficient English speakers.