Original URL:  http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E53%257E961822,00.html

Boards warn of bilingual costs
By The Associated Press, October 31, 2002

School board members said today it could cost their districts $43.5 million statewide to revamp programs if an amendment to dismantle bilingual education passes on Tuesday.

They said classes for gifted and talented students and other programs would have to be cut or tax increases approved by voters next year to pay for it.

The estimates include $30.9 million to cover the expense of training teachers in English immersion and setting up classrooms, and another $12.6 million for testing required by the amendment.

"This is a legislative year when we are being told things are tight and things are going to be changing in education funding. If Amendment 31 passes, we will have no alternative but to raise class size because there is no money from the Legislature," said Greeley School Board member Philip Moreno.

Board members said the estimates do not include potential court costs and damages that the amendment allows parents to collect for up to 10 years if they do not believe their children got a good education.

Rita Moreno, spokeswoman for the group promoting the measure, said the estimates were a scare tactic by opponents. She said some school districts have found English immersion cut costs by not having to hire teachers from Mexico, buying expensive books in foreign languages and allowing students to spend less time in bilingual programs.

"They're pulling these numbers out of the sky," she said.

Amendment 31 would require children learning English to spend no more than a year in English immersion courses before being placed in regular classrooms. Parents could keep their children in traditional bilingual classrooms by going through a stringent waiver process, a process subject to legal challenge.

State Education Board member Gully Stanford said the estimates were based on the $442 average cost in Arizona to implement a similar program. In addition to the cost of implementing the program for the estimated 70,000 non-English speaking students in the state, education officials say they would have to come up with 12 tests for each student.

Moreno said the constitutional amendment, if it passes, would only require one test to determine English proficiency.

Bill de la Cruz, president of the Boulder Valley School Board, estimated it would cost his district between $2 million and $4 million if the amendment passes.

"This takes away our local control," he said.

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