Calif. millionaire may be cash cow for Ariz. foes of bilingual education

California millionaire Ron Unz says he is willing to pay people to
gather signatures for a Tucson-based group’s attempt to get an anti-
bilingual education initiative on the ballot in Arizona.

Unz said he would prefer to use volunteer collectors, but members
of “English for the Children – Arizona” must gather between 113,000
and 115,000 signatures from registered voters, said Mitch Etter ,
Pima County elections manager.

To get a similar California proposition on the ballot – Unz said
he paid $500,000 to gather about 800,000 signatures. Voters there
approved the measure.

Unz said he hopes to have the question on the Arizona ballot in
1999. But Etter said that wasn’t likely because there are no
statewide elections next year.

Bilingual education opponents would have to get a special election
approved by the Legislature – something that is rarely granted, Etter

Unz already has spent about $1,000 for Phoenix-based Behavior
Research Center and Tucson-based Arizona Opinion to conduct polls
that he said show support for dismantling the state’s bilingual
education programs.

And Unz said he has donated between $2,000 and $3,000 to the
group, including office equipment and campaign signs and bumper-

He met with the group in Tucson Monday to plan for signature-
gathering efforts.

Hector Ayala, co-founder of English for the Children – Arizona,
said he was “extremely hopeful and encouraged” by the polls.

Ayala’s group, which now has supporters in Phoenix and Nogales,
has been meeting since June to organize the effort.

Alejandra Sotomayor , president of the Tucson Association for
Bilingual Education, said she is not surprised her opponents are
moving ahead with their initiative.

But Sotomayor said supporters of bilingual education were not
going to roll over and allow the initiative to pass.

She said the public ought to question Unz’s motivation for backing
the Arizona initiative. She says he’s doing it for political gain.

Unz ran unsuccessfully in California’s GOP gubernatorial primary
against Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994.

In an August interview with the Tucson Citizen, Unz acknowledged
that fighting bilingual education might bolster his political

Unz said he also has commissioned polls in New York and Colorado
to gauge support for anti-bilingual education measures in those

Sotomayor said that a local, grass-roots parents’ group recently
began meeting to counterattack Unz’s efforts.

The group, Arizona Parents for Bilingual Education, has staged a
couple of rallies at local schools.

The group planned to rally today at Davis Bilingual Magnet School,
500 W. St. Mary’s Road.

The group meets tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the El Pueblo Neighborhood
Center, 101 W. Irvington Road.

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