Kansas governor signs bill making English official state language

[JURIST] Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius [official website] has signed legislation making English the official state language. The bill [PDF text; supplemental note, PDF], which was signed Friday and takes effect July 1, also gives state and local governments the discretion to provide official documents or hold meetings in non-English languages, and grants an exception to Native American tribal school districts to "provide for the instruction of students that recognizes the cultural identity... [and] provides the use of a common language for communication." In February, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a version of the bill [JURIST report] that provided $500,000 dollars to facilitate education in English for non-native speakers, but the Kansas Senate removed the provision.

Critics of the bill, such as Rep. Dale Swenson (R-Wichita) and Rep. Tim Owens (R-Overland Park) [official profiles], have characterized the bill as a distraction from other issues such as health care and warned that the bill could send a "negative message" about the state. In March, several Native American groups voiced opposition [JURIST report] to a similar measure in Oklahoma over concerns that laws requiring all official state business to be conducted in English would stifle efforts to revive tribal languages. Kansas joins at least 29 other states that have made English the official or common language [JURIST news archive; backgrounder]. The Lawrence Journal-World has more.

 

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