James J. Lyons Returns to Role as Advocate for ELLs
James J. Lyons, a former executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, is back in town after an absence of a decade and is speaking out about issues concerning English-language learners. He was the executive director of NABE from 1989-1998.
It turns out that Mr. Lyons has been hired by a number of affiliates of the National Association for Bilingual Education, or NABE, to express their views to federal education officials and members of Congress on issues affecting ELLs. Mr. Lyons' first step on behalf of these state groups was to send a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking him to "quickly" confer with Solicitor General Elena Kagan and get involved with the long-running Arizona case concerning ELLs that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear this year. The Jan. 23 letter urges the new administration to take the stand in Horne v. Flores that civil rights protections for students, in this case ELLs, supersede the No Child Left Behind Act. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is making the opposite argument to the courts.
Secondly, the letter calls for Mr. Duncan to use funding from the stimulus package working its way through Congress to support programs to train teachers to work with ELLs. "Until we improve teaching, we can't improve learning," Mr. Lyons told me today during a phone interview.
Mr. Lyons' official new title is the Washington representative of the Ad-Hoc Coalition on Education for a Multilingual America, a new organization that is made up of NABE affiliates from Arizona, Colorado, California, Illinois, and New Mexico. The national organization of NABE is not involved in the effort, he said.