Group to try for election to scrap bilingual schooling

Claiming that polls show overwhelming support from Arizona voters, foes of bilingual education plan to file an initiative within two weeks to dismantle bilingual programs statewide.

Members of the Tucson-based English for the Children – Arizona said yesterday the initiative will be virtually identical to California’s voter-approved Proposition 227, which requires students in bilingual programs to enter a “sheltered immersion” program to learn English within a year.

California millionaire Ron Unz, who financially backed Proposition 227, said he also will support the Arizona initiative, which will require the signatures of about 115,000 registered voters to get on the ballot.

Members of the local group said they will file plans with the Secretary of State’s office in two weeks to try to get the issue on the ballot in a special election next year.

But Pima County election officials warn that is unlikely because there are no statewide elections in 1999, and supporters of bilingual education say they will not let Arizona suffer California’s fate.

“We will not give up,” said Alejandra Sotomayor, president of the Tucson Association for Bilingual Education.

Parents and educators have met regularly to counter attacks on bilingual education, she said.

Unz said about 70 percent of respondents in two polls taken in October want to dismantle bilingual education programs in Arizona.

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