Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/state/article/0,1299,DRMN_21_1633054,00.html

Bilingual ed on agenda
By Associated Press
December 26, 2002

A Republican lawmaker said he plans to revive a debate over bilingual education when the legislature returns to the Capitol next month.

Rep. Richard Decker of Fountain said he believes that Coloradans want to abolish bilingual education, but not in the way that a failed November ballot measure proposed.

He said he will introduce a bill that would put non-English-speaking students through English-immersion classes, then place them in English-only classrooms.

In November, voters rejected Amendment 31, which would have done the same thing, but also would have given parents as long as 10 years to sue teachers and school districts if they believed the wrong decisions were made about a child's education.

That provision, along with the fact that the proposal was a constitutional amendment that could have been changed only by a vote of the people, prompted some supporters of English immersion to oppose the amendment. Among them was Gov. Bill Owens.

Decker said his proposal would spread the English-immersion program over two years, rather than one, and exempt school districts with fewer than 20 non-English-speaking students.

"I thought the majority of people were in favor of something like (Amendment 31), but thought the issue was worded too strongly," Decker said. "It is important for students that do not speak English - as they are coming into our country and our system - first of all to learn English."

Rita Montero, who headed the Amendment 31 campaign, said Decker's proposal would be better than nothing, but any English-immersion policy must be enforced.

"It will be a failure if you don't have a method to force teachers to teach English," she said. "When parents have asked for more English instruction, the teachers have said they know better than them and they are going to continue to instruct in Spanish."

She said she would rather see a constitutional amendment than a statutory change to prevent lawmakers from tinkering with the program every year.

"Something like that may be in place for two years, then a new legislature moves in and changes it all," Montero said.


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