Too little, too late for Prop. 203 foes

They may not have started in time to save bilingual ed, opponents admit

Foes of a ballot measure that would effectively dismantle bilingual programs in schools across the state are conceding that they may have started their fund-raising too late to swing the election.

Three campaign committees have been formed to defeat Prop. 203, altogether raising about $230,000, from big donors like the Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribe, Greater Phoenix Leadership and the National Education Association.

Though the Prop. 203 opponents have raised more money than the proposition supporters, they say they need more money to defeat the measure.

English for the Children, a drive bankrolled by California millionaire Ron Unz, so far reports $188,599, almost all of which went to pay signature gatherers to get the measure before voters.

Joe Eddie Lopez, a Phoenix Democratic state senator and a leader of the opposition drives, said the no-groups were simply not organized enough. “We did not get the money we had hoped to get and we made a mistake in not starting earlier,” he said.

Opponents have done a good job with grass-roots efforts, but they should have had some folks lined up to do fund-raising, he said. With polls showing the measure leading, he said, it’s going to take money to defeat it.

“Most people who are limited-English-speakers will jump at a program to teach their children English a lot faster. It takes quite a while to discuss the reasons why this proposition is a bad idea, and we can’t give one-sentence sound bites and get away with it like the other side can,” Lopez said.

Maria Mendoza, of English for the Children, said the other side has tried to characterize the measure as a wealthy Californian’s attempt to tell Arizona parents how to educate their children. She approached Unz, she said, after she saw his similar, successful effort in California. Mendoza, who pulled her own children out of TUSD and put them in private schools because of a concern about bilingual education, said where the money comes from shouldn’t be the issue.

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