Petitioners target bilingual ed

Initiative seeks 'English immersion'

All children in Colorado, regardless of the language they speak, should have the same opportunities to ‘achieve the American dream.’

With those words, Linda Chavez, head of the Washington, D.C.-based One Nation Indivisible, formally launched an effort for a ballot initiative that would virtually abolish bilingual education in Colorado schools.

‘I’m concerned about the future of Hispanic children in the United States,’
Chavez, a Denver native, said Thursday at a news conference at the Capitol.
‘There is strong evidence that English fluency is the key to economic success.’

The ‘English-immersion’ proposal would amend the state’s constitution to discontinue bilingual education classes in the state’s 176 school districts, where students are nurtured for years in their native language while slowly learning English.

Under the Chavez proposal, Spanish-speaking students would receive one year of intense English instruction before being mainstreamed into English-only classes. Parents could get a waiver to have their kids in bilingual education.

To place the initiative on the November ballot, organizers need to gather the signatures of 62,595 registered Colorado voters.

‘This will provide a quality education for every child,’ said U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, who also is sponsoring the English-immersion measure. ‘This is the way we’ll get it for a certain group of kids.’

Others, however, have been critical of the proposal, calling it anti-immigrant. Pam Martinez, head of Denver-based Padres Unidos, says the immersion program ‘does not value the benefit of learning many languages.’

An estimated 50,000 children in Colorado speak little or no English. The proposal would have the biggest impact on Denver Public Schools, which has about 17,000 kids in bilingual education.

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