DENVER — A national organization has launched a $ 500,000 campaign to strictly control how Colorado schools teach non-English speakers the language.
One Nation Indivisible, led by former Reagan appointee Linda Chavez, wants Colorado voters to pass an initiative in November that would force students who don’t speak English into one-year “English immersion” classes in which their native languages would be spoken sparingly.
After a year, most children would join mainstream classes, two to four years sooner than now.
If the measure passes, Colorado would be the second state with such a tough approach to English language instruction. California enacted a similar law in 1998.
“English proficiency is the key to why our children are not succeeding in school,” said Chavez.
About 45,000 of the 50,000 bilingual students in Colorado speak Spanish, and they are being treated as mentally inferior by schools that keep them linguistically segregated for up to seven years, Chavez said.
The initiative’s goal is simple, supporters say: The faster students learn English, the faster they assimilate into the dominant culture.
“We need to give our kids a fair chance to achieve the American dream,” said Ada Diaz Kirby, a Denver businesswoman who was forced to learn English as a child in the 1960s without any reliance on Spanish.