Bilingual ed back in court

Opponents of proposal to dismantle system ask review of ballot language

It’s back to the Colorado Supreme Court for a ballot question asking the state’s voters to dismantle bilingual education.

Opponents of the proposal have asked the state’s highest court to review the ballot question language approved last week by the Title Board.

Ballot initiative supporter Rita Montero called the opponents’ appeal “predictable.”

“We knew they had already said they were going to exhaust all their appeal processes — even if they didn’t have any legal standing,” she said. “That’s what they did.”

The ballot question set last week states more strongly that the initiative could make it “very difficult” to obtain waivers allowing bilingual education — or native language instruction — for English language learners who meet certain conditions.

But opponents asked the court to consider whether the new language went far enough.

“We believe the voters should know precisely what they’re voting on,” said opponent Gully Stanford. “Even this latest version is not adequately clear.”

The stronger language approved last week was a response to a ruling by the Supreme Court on April 8 that said the previous ballot language needed tweaking. That ruling, also requested by opponents, found the ballot question should more thoroughly explain “the parental-waiver process and its virtual elimination of bilingual education as a viable parental and school district option.”

Under the ballot initiative, English language learners would spend no more than a year learning English alongside children with similar English skills. After that, they’d be sent to mainstream classes.

Schools could grant waivers from these requirements to English language learners who were over age 10, had special needs or already knew English well.

But schools could deny these waivers for any or no reason. And 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 schools that offered bilingual education.

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