It could be the head of one state agency versus another as Arizona School Superintendent Tom Horne prepares to fight a ruling by Attorney General Kris Mayes.

Its a dispute over how much authority Horne has over bilingual education.

Bilingual education can be important just about anywhere in this country but with a lot of Spanish speakers in Arizona, its a longstanding interest here. Now the State School Superintendent and the State Attorney General are at odds over whether the superintendent can penalize schools that do not teach English a particular way.

We talked with Superintendent Tom Horne as he attended an education conference in DC. Recently he announced plans to withhold state funding to school systems methods that may teach non-English speakers in English part-time, and their first language part-time.

Horne says Arizona voters passed Prop 203 more than 20 years ago. It requires teaching only in English for full-time immersion.

There are two issues. One is what’s legal and the second is what’s best for the students and for their academic success. As far as what’s legal goes, the initiative that was passed by the voters in his voter protected and was passed by over 60% of the voters says that instruction shall be in English it doesn’t say in Spanish or any other language it says instruction shall be an English anyone who can read English could see that.

Attorney General Kris Mayes issued an opinion that said that Superintendent Horne does not have the authority to change that, only the State School Board does.

Mayes cited a four-year-old state law that gave the State Board of Education flexibility to develop types of bilingual education besides the immersion method Horne says the old Prop 203 requires.

Emilio Torres of the group Stand for Children says immersion is not as effective as Horne says it is and no one person should be dictating how students learn English.

And we will continue to advocate because we do think dual language is beneficial. We don’t think it violates Prop 203 because of Senate Bill 1014. It passed unanimously. I know Mr. Horne keeps harping on Prop 203 but he seems to at least in quotes, not reference the fact that it passed by both chambers unanimously.

Horne says he plans to challenge Mayes’ conclusions in court.