Ballot question on bilingual education tweaked

New wording OK'd for initiative that seeks to dismantle state program

New wording was approved Wednesday for a ballot question that would ask voters to dismantle bilingual education in Colorado.

The state Title Board approval came on the heels of an April state Supreme Court ruling that called the ballot question “misleading.” The Title Board words ballot questions with input from an initiative’s supporters and opponents.

Opponents said little about the new language during Wednesday’s hearing.

“We’ll take this home and look at the whole language then decide where we move from here,” said opponent Beverly Ausfahl.

Ed Ramey, an attorney for the opponents, said it was likely the group would seek a rehearing.

Opponents have seven days to request a rehearing. May 15 is the next Title Board meeting.

If dissatisfied with the rehearing’s results, opponents could appeal again to the Supreme Court.

Supporters, who are backed by California millionaire Ron Unz, have until Aug. 5 to collect the 80,571 signatures to get their proposal on this fall’s ballot.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Ramey said he doubted the Title Board could draft a ballot question that would “accurately express what this measure does.”

“The problem is not so much the machination of creating a title,” Ramey said. Instead, the problem is that the initiative “promises something it is in no position to deliver,” he said.

That something, Ramey says, is bilingual education — a method that includes at least some instruction in a child’s native language. About 17,500, or 45 percent, of Colorado’s 38,629 English-language learners, receive some bilingual education, according to a recent state survey.

Under the initiative, bilingual education would be replaced with no more than a year of intensive English instruction, followed by placement in a mainstream class.

Parents who still wanted bilingual education could apply for waivers.

But Ramey said there was no guarantee that bilingual education would still be there even if waivers were granted.

That’s because the initiative requires a school to provide bilingual education only if at least 20 students at the same grade level receive waivers.

“You’re not going to say ‘The waiver process is a sham,’ ” Ramey told the Title Board. “If you just plain can’t set a title, you just plain can’t set a title. I’m not sure it’s physically possible when you’ve got this underlying contradictory concept.”

Comments are closed.