No to English initiative

DPS board opposes ballot measure to nix native language

Denver school board members came to a consensus Thursday to oppose a ballot initiative that would require English language learners to be taught in English.

They expect to make their final decision on the initiative next Thursday after a 2 p.m. discussion about the proposal’s possible legal and educational impacts.

The initiative, which is almost certain to be on November’s ballot, would require English language learners to attend mainstream classes after one year of intensive English.

This would virtually eliminate bilingual education, in which at least some instruction is in a child’s native language.

Denver Public Schools is home to more than 20 percent of the state’s 70,000 English language learners. Nearly 90 percent of the district’s 16,000 non-English speakers participate in the English Language Acquisition program, which includes varying amounts of instruction in Spanish.

It’s unknown whether the initiative, if successful, would even affect DPS. That’s because English Language Acquisition was ordered by a federal court and the initiative would be part of state law.

But board members who spoke out against the initiative Thursday said it had the potential to eliminate the rights of parents and school districts to choose which educational methods are used to teach their kids.

“It’s not the place of someone else to tell DPS how to educate their children,” said board member Sue Edwards.

Board president Elaine Berman said she also had concerns about how one of the initiative’s provisions would impact district employees, who could be held personally liable if successfully sued for wrongly granting waivers from the proposal’s requirement.

Former Denver school board member Rita Montero, who is spearheading the ballot initiative, was not surprised the board was leaning toward opposing the proposal.

“They’ve got board members that believe in Spanish-only instruction.”

In other business:

? Two English-speaking parents complained to the board that their families felt ostracized at Barnum Elementary because so much school business is conducted in Spanish.

? Denver Public Schools and Denver Police announced a partnership that will train parents to patrol neighborhoods near schools. Armed with cell phones and walkie-talkies, the parents will report suspicious incidents. The effort is a response to the kidnapping last school year of two young girls walking home from school and to multiple sightings of flashers near schools. or (303) 892-5082

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