Fourth Annual PEACE AS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE Conference, Nov. 11-13, 2005, Kyoto, JAPAN

April 2005

Report from TESOL 2005!

Riding the Heartland Flyer

New TESOL President Strikes Fast

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Quick Advocacy From TESOL Leader
New TESOL President Helps Derail English-Only in West Virginia

There was a very effective letter-writing campaign this past week as part of the annual effort to stop "English-only" legislation in West Virginia, but perhaps one of the most persuasive came from the pen of new TESOL President Elliot Judd, in his third week since becoming the 2005-2006 TESOL leader.

Judd's letter, the full text of which is provided below, pointed out that the West Virginia legislature had added the English-only amendment, totally out of context, at the last minute, to H. B. 2782, a bill ostensibly about park and recreation boards.

Over the weekend, the news came that Judd and others fighting the English-only provisions had prevailed. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin vetoed the bill due to what his office referred to as a "technical flaw," in that the state constitution limits any legislative bill to a single topic.

ESL MiniConference applauds the quick advocacy of the new TESOL president. It looks as though TESOL has the right person in the job at precisely the right time, with so many advocacy challenges in the U.S. and around the world today.

Letter from Elliot Judd to Joe Manchin

Dear Governor Manchin:

As president of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), a global professional association representing over 13,000 English language educators, I am writing you to urge your veto of H. B. 2782, which includes a last-minute amendment making English the official language of West Virginia.

TESOL’s mission is to advance English language education, and the association strongly supports increasing educational opportunities for English language learners. However, both TESOL and its local affiliate, West Virginia TESOL (WVTESOL), support the right of individuals to retain and use their own native languages and are opposed to policies and legislation that seek to restrict these rights. I have enclosed a copy of TESOL’s position statement for your reference.

Proponents of “English Only” or official English legislation suggest that such measures will help to expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English. However, statistics show that immigrants to this country are learning English at an increased rate without such restrictive legislation. Moreover, rather than help immigrants feel a closer bond to their new country, such legislative mandates only serve to further separate and isolate linguistic minority groups in the United States, effectively limiting participation instead of increasing it.

Beyond the substance of the English Only amendment, TESOL strongly objects to the manner in which it was handled. Although a variety of English Only policies have been enacted throughout the United States, rarely have they been attempted with such concealment and obvious subterfuge by burying it within a rather inconspicuous, unrelated piece of legislation. In this case, House Majority leader Rick Stanton stated that he was unaware of the exact nature of the addition by Senator Billy Wayne Bailey until asked about it by the Associated Press. (In fact, the addition was made with such haste that the altered version, with the English Only provision, is not even available on the West Virginia Legislature Web site.) Considering that English Only measures have been previously introduced and defeated annually in West Virginia since the 1990s, it is doubtful that the bill would have passed this time if the amendment had been addressed in a free and open format.

Because of the English Only amendment, and the manner in which it was handled, TESOL urges you to veto H. B. 2782. I greatly appreciate your attention to this matter, and TESOL welcomes the opportunity to serve as a further resource to you, your staff, and the educational leadership of West Virginia.


Elliot Judd, PhD
President, 2005–2006

Cc: Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin
Sen. H. Truman Chafin
Sen. Vic Sprouse
Speaker Robert S. Kiss
Del. W. Richard Staton
Del. Charles S Trump IV
Jun Liu, TESOL President-Elect
Michele J. Sabino, TESOL Past President
Asli Hassan, WVTESOL President
Enc: TESOL Position Statement on Language Rights

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2005 ESL MiniConference Online