Bilingual classes get vote of no confidence

Poll shows two-thirds of residents still favor amendment to limit Hispanic instruction

More than two-thirds of Coloradans continue to support a state constitutional amendment that would dismantle bilingual education.

That’s according to a Rocky Mountain News/News 4 poll conducted last month by Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy of Boulder.

The April results were nearly identical to a February poll when the same research firm asked the same question.

Both polls found 68 percent of those surveyed support a plan to require no more than one year of intensive English instruction for English language learners.

After that, the students would be placed in regular classes. Parents could request waivers from the requirement for children with good English skills, children over the age of 10 and children with “special individual needs.” Bilingual education — native language instruction — would still a possibility for children who receive waivers.

But no school would be required to provide bilingual education unless at least 20 waivers were granted at a grade level. Students with waivers could transfer to a school that did offer bilingual education, but schools would not be required to provide them transportation.

The percentage of people opposing the proposal dropped between February and April from 26 percent to 24 percent, while the percentage of people who were undecided rose from 7 to 8 percent. (Last month’s percentages didn’t add up to 100 due to rounding).

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Talmey-Drake President Paul Talmey called the changes statistically insignificant.

“Obviously, there’s been no campaign,” he said. “Things don’t change until there are campaigns. You tend to see them (poll results) fairly steady in the beginning, then, once the campaign for or against gets going, then they fluctuate quite a bit.”

In recent months, attention has been focused on the effort to get the initiative on the November ballot. The measure is backed by a committee called English for the Children of Colorado. It is opposed by a group called English +.

In April, the Supreme Court declared the ballot question “misleading,” and sent it back to the title board, which decides on the question’s wording with input from supporters and opponents. The title board approved new ballot question wording earlier this month, but opponents requested a rehearing. It’s been scheduled for Wednesday.

“Our opponents will appeal whatever the Secretary of State’s office comes up with, regardless of legal merit, because, I assume, they know if it went to the ballot there’s a good chance it would pass,” said supporter Rita Montero.

Opponent Gully Stanford disagreed.

“The Supreme Court determined the initial title was misleading and confusing,” he said.”Our claim was, the title reflects the fatal flaws of the proposal itself.”

The exact wording of the poll question was as follows:

“There will also probably be several initiatives on the ballot. One of them would amend the state constitution that would require all public school instruction to be conducted in the English language, and for students who are not fluent in English to be placed in an intensive one-year immersion program to learn English. Only with parental permission would children who were not fluent in English be allowed to be taught academic subjects in their native language. If the election were held today, would you vote for this ballot initiative or against it?”

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