Bilingual foes plan initiative

English immersion would be pushed

Tuesday, June 19, 2001 – Opponents of bilingual education plan to file a ballot proposition today that would severely limit the educational practice of using a student’s native language – typically Spanish – to teach academic subjects in school.

The measure, which supporters want on the November 2002 ballot, would create an amendment to Colorado’s constitution forcing parents to sign waivers to keep their children in bilingual programs. Otherwise students who enter school with limited or no English would be put into one-year immersion classes, then into mainstream classes.

The group, called English for the Children, is headed by California businessman and politician Ron Unz, who led similar efforts in California in 1998 and Arizona in 2000. Both passed despite opposition from Hispanic educators.

Many schools in both states had to change their approach to teaching English learners, leading to fierce debate over whether the changes help or hurt students.

The group submitted two versions of the Colorado proposal to head off an expected challenge over the requirement that ballot proposals only deal with one subject. One version calls for creating an adult English literacy program, which could open it to a charge of addressing a second subject, Unz said; the other doesn’t.

An anti-bilingual education proposal headed by Washington-based conservative writer and activist Linda Chavez failed to get on the 2000 ballot because of a technical challenge, an error Unz has vowed not to repeat.

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