1968: The Federal Bilingual Education Act states that students with limited English proficiency need special services. It does not mandate bilingual programs.
1974: In the case Lau vs. Nichols, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that San Francisco schools violate the civil rights of Chinese-speaking students by operating in English. The court leaves the door open to teaching such students English or teaching them in Chinese. As the Hispanic population grows, many districts offer native-language support in Spanish but not other languages.
1975: The Colorado legislature passes the Bilingual and Bicultural Education Act. It requires schools to offer “transitional programs to perfect the English language skills and cultural development” of “linguistically different” students in kindergarten through third grade. Parents can opt into such programs with a written request. The state sets up funding for training of bilingual teachers and aides.
1981: After debate about whether the Bilingual and Bicultural Education Act encourages plurality or assimilation, the legislature repeals it and replaces it with the English Language Proficiency Act. It provides state funding for “English language proficiency programs” for K-12 students but limits funding to two years per student. It leaves program design to districts, specifically permitting bilingual programs.
1990: A quarter of teachers in Denver’s bilingual program haven’t passed a district-required Spanish fluency test, The Denver Post reports.
1994: Students and activists rally on Mexican Independence Day against Denver Public Schools’ bilingual program, which they say should include more Spanish and more Hispanic culture.
1995: Federal Judge Richard Matsch releases DPS from desegregation busing but maintains oversight of its bilingual program, criticized for lacking exit targets.
1997: DPS agrees to exit most English learners from bilingual courses in three years. School board member Rita Montero, a former pro-bilingual activist, writes in The Post, “The program became the Big Pin~ata for adults, without producing any visible positive effect for students.” The new program, English Language Acquisition, starts in the 1999-2000 school year.
1998: California voters pass Proposition 227, which businessman and former gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz says will dismantle bilingual education and replace it with one-year English immersion programs.
1999: Montero loses her school board seat to pro-bilingual challenger Lucia Guzman. 2000: Arizona voters approve an anti-bilingual measure backed by Unz. An effort to get a similar measure onto Colorado’s ballot fails on a wording challenge. Unz isn’t associated with that effort and says it failed because its backers were antagonistic toward immigrants.
2001: Unz and Montero announce plans to get an anti-bilingual proposition on the 2002 Colorado ballot.
Sources: Denver Post archives; BUENO Center for Multicultural Education