The father of California’s anti-bilingual-education initiative yesterday made his first contributions to Arizona’s effort – a copier and a fax machine.

Ron Unz, the software millionaire who led the Proposition 227 campaign, paid his second visit to Tucson in a month to help English for the Children Arizona.

Unz confirmed he plans to back the Tucson-based group’s effort to get a proposition to abolish bilingual education on the 2000 ballot.

“I’m virtually certain that their effort will get on the ballot,” Unz said in an interview. “If I had to bet, I would say that it will be even more popular in Arizona.”

Sixty-one percent of California voters agreed in June to abolish bilingual education in favor of a yearlong English immersion program.

Unz’s contributions, worth about $1,500, will enable the group to set up an office in member Hector Ayala’s home, Unz said. He also plans to give the group money for a phone line and donate leftover campaign materials.

The 20-member group called Unz shortly after the June 2 passage of the California proposition. The group is the most organized of other interested states’ supporters. Members met privately with Unz yesterday afternoon, winding up his two-day visit to Arizona.

On Thursday, Unz met with a Glendale principal who is organizing Phoenix-area supporters.

He also met with a Phoenix lawyer for advice on the ballot wording and spoke with potential donors. He refused to name them.

“I think it’s very important that funding largely come from inside the state,” Unz said.

The Arizona campaign likely will cost a few hundred thousand dollars, less than the $1.2 million spent in California, Unz said. Supporters can start gathering the 113,000 needed signatures in November.

Now, by law, limited-English students in Arizona must stay in bilingual education, English as a second language or individual plans until they pass a series of tests to take only English classes.

Tucson and Sunnyside unified school districts primarily use bilingual education, in which students’ primary language is used for instruction in core subjects while they learn English.

Opponents say the method uses too much Spanish for students to learn English quickly.

California’s ballot measure would need slight tinkering to work in Arizona. Initiative supporters here plan to eliminate wording in the California measure that provided extra funding for adult literacy, Unz said.

The California proposition has been approved by federal and appeals court judges.

“I think when people realize that what they are voting for has already survived legal scrutiny, they will be more apt to vote for it,” Unz said.

English for the Children Arizona’s next public meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at El Rio Neighborhood Center, 1390 W. Speedway.


Lawmaker slams immersion-type English classes

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