Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/education/article/0,1299,DRMN_957_1534698,00.html

English-immersion bill floated
Lawmaker seeks to prevail where Amend. 31 failed
By Nancy Mitchell,

Rocky Mountain News, November 9, 2002

The battle over how best to teach Colorado's non-English speaking students isn't over yet.

A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill in the 2003 General Assembly that would require English immersion, much as the failed Amendment 31 sought to do.

State Rep. Richard Decker, R-Fountain, said he is still writing the bill. But the former teacher said he is looking at requiring English-immersion programs for two years.

Amendment 31, which was rejected by 56 percent of voters Tuesday, required such immersion programs for one year before sending English-language learners into mainstream classrooms.

It's unclear how much support Decker's bill would have.

Gov. Bill Owens has publicly supported English immersion for children who speak little English.

But his spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said Owens believes it's too soon after the initiative's failure to tackle the issue in the General Assembly.

Owens did not support Amendment 31 itself, citing provisions it contained that would have authorized lawsuits against teachers among other things.

As for Decker's proposal, Owens will not comment on it until he sees it, Hopkins said.

State Rep. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, also has reservations. She opposed Amendment 31 because she says local school boards should decide how English language learners are educated.

"It's a local control issue," she said. "So if someone brings forward a bill, I would have to take a pretty serious look at it."

Gully Stanford, the State Board of Education member who led the statewide campaign against Amendment 31, said he welcomes the attention paid to teaching the state's 70,000 English-language learners.

"Certainly, an immersion pilot program would help clarify issues related to English language acquisition," he said. "But we should approach any kind of prioritization very carefully and with profound respect for local control."

What clearly emerged from the statewide debate over Amendment 31, he said, was the sense that "we're not doing a
good enough job by our English-language learners."

"The statewide interest in 31 does provide an opportunity for us to ask ourselves how to do better," Stanford said. "Anything that improves student achievement deserves our attention."

mitchelln@RockyMountainNews .com or (303)892-5245



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