DENVER—Leaders of three parent groups have announced their opposition to a ballot proposal that would limit bilingual education in Colorado.

Richard Garcia, president of the heavily Hispanic Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, said Tuesday the proposal would take choices away from parents and school boards.

“Is that what we want? No,” Garcia said. “We want a system that allows you and me to make those choices.” Members of the Colorado PTA and Padres Unidos, or Parents United, joined Garcia in a news conference on the state Capitol steps.

A group called English for the Children is circulating petitions to try to place the measure on the November ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment calls for children who don’t speak English to take a year of intensive English instruction and then move into regular classes.

Students in bilingual education typically are moved into all-English classes in three years.

Garcia criticized California millionaire Ron Unz, the initiative campaign’s main contributor. He said Coloradans don’t like being told what is best for them by “an overzealous ignoramus.”

The proposed initiative is similar to those Unz helped pass in California and Arizona.

“I basically think children should be taught English when they go to school,” Unz said from Palo Alto, Calif. “It’s what their parents want, it’s what benefits their education.”

Rita Montero, the former Denver school board member leading English for the Children, said opponents are spreading lies by claiming the initiative does away with parental choice.

“Our parents are all Hispanics and Mexican immigrants, and we’re saying we truly believe we want our kids to learn English,” she said. “We also believe in maintaining Spanish and the Spanish culture, but that’s our job and we’ll do that in our home.”

About 24,000 public-school students in Colorado participate in some form of bilingual education. Half of them are in Denver Public Schools.

Proponents have until Aug. 5 to gather about 80,600 signatures of registered voters to get the measure on the November ballot.

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