Pollster: Colorado Backs Curbs on Bilingual Teaching

State Would Likely Pass California-like Ballot

The desire to curb bilingual education is as strong in the metro area as it is in California, pollster Floyd Ciruli said Wednesday.

In January, Ciruli’s office asked registered voters in metro area counties what they thought about bilingual education.

A resounding 67 percent said they would support limiting bilingual education to two years and require intense instruction in English during that time, Ciruli said.

Bilingual education “is an issue in the state of Colorado. If it was on the ballot, it would probably pass,” he said.

Tuesday, California voters passed a proposition, 61 percent to 39 percent, that eliminates a wide range of bilingual programs in favor of a mandatory one-year English immersion program followed by English-only schooling.

A coalition of educators, civil rights groups and immigrant advocates immediately sought a temporary injunction Wednesday in U.S. District Court. The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the 1.4 million California children who rely on bilingual education.

Meantime in Denver, about 70 mostly Hispanic activists, parents and children rallied at the capitol Wednesday to denounce California’ s proposition and a similar proposal before the U.S. House.

“Our children deserve no less than anybody else,” said speaker D.J. Ida, director of child and adolescent services for the Asian Pacific Development Center. “What you do is start with the children’ s strengths. We blame bilingual education programs when we don’t even give them the proper resources.”

Nevertheless, the issue has divided the Hispanic community nationwide.

In polls before Tuesday’s vote, many Hispanics said they intended to support the issue. In Ciruli’s January survey, more than half the Hispanics surveyed said they, too, would support limits.

California’s vote could affect Colorado, people on both sides of the issue said Wednesday.

“There are people in Colorado who like to copy-cat California’ s bad laws,” said Kathy Escamilla, associate professor of languages at the University of Colorado at Denver. “There’s overwhelming research that one-year (immersion classes) isn’t enough.”

“The California voters made a wise decision,” said Dave Kopel, a researcher at the conservative Independence Institute in Golden.

In Denver the debate has been brewing over how to best teach foreign- language speaking students while they learn English.

Denver students now stay in bilingual classes an average of five years. The district is in negotiations with federal officials to reduce that time to three years, DPS spokesman Mark Stevens said.

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