Original URL: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~61~1145515,00.html

Panel kills ban on bilingual ed
But English-only supporters won't quit, sponsor says
Denver Post
January 30,  2003
By Arthur Kane,  Capitol Bureau

A bill closely resembling last fall's initiative to ban bilingual education in most cases died in committee Wednesday. But the bill's sponsor said people will continue to try to get English-only education in Colorado.

"Unz will be back if we don't do something this year," said Rep. Richard Decker, R-Fountain, referring to California businessman Ron Unz, who sponsored last year's Amendment 31.

Decker's House Bill 1135 would have required schools to provide two years of English immersion before sending children to regular classes.

A line of critics testified that the measure hurts children. Christine Cameron, who has a child in the Boulder School District, said the bill prevents children from experiencing other cultures.

"Allow us to retain our right to choose how our children are educated," she said. "It would require our English-speaking children to be segregated in classrooms where there are only fluent English speakers."

Fort Collins resident Oscar Felix said he was put into a form of English immersion when his family emigrated from Mexico. It worked for him, but his siblings did not fare as well.

"Some of my brothers and sisters still suffer from immersion," said Felix, who has two children at Harris Bilingual Immersion Elementary School. "I was kind of successful on that, but (the bill) doesn't create more choices. It creates less choice."

Supporters of the bill said it will help children become successful in this country.

"Without language, you cannot succeed in this country,"  said Eugene Megyesy, who immigrated from Hungary in  the 1950s. "The priority should be learning English."

Rod Greiner of Denver said children who do not know English will find jobs only in the service industry.

"I think what we're creating with a system of bilingual education is a labor class," Greiner said, adding that teaching only English would save money on teachers and textbooks.

Committee members did not buy the arguments from supporters. Representatives first amended the bill to require only a majority of language class to be taught in English, then killed the whole bill by a 6-4 vote.

"I think the people of Colorado spoke loud and clear about this restriction," said Rep. Peter Groff, D-Denver, referring to Amendment 31. "I have a problem with the legislative nullification we tend to do up here."

Amendment 31 would have required English immersion for a year, then sent children to regular classes. But it failed Nov. 5, with more than 56 percent of voters rejecting it.