Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/election/article/0,1299,DRMN_36_1516769,00.html

Educators call proposal costly
Backers of English immersion scoff at estimate of expense
By Nancy Mitchell,

Rocky Mountain News, November 1, 2002

Changing the way Colorado schools teach children who speak
little English would cost millions of dollars, school board members
from Greeley to Colorado Springs said on Thursday.

But supporters of Amendment 31, which would require English learners to spend a
year in English-immersion classes before joining traditional classrooms, labeled
such claims "lies and more lies."

With daily polls showing the ballot measure's fate a tossup, both sides are stepping
up the rhetoric in the final days before Tuesday's election.

Details were in short supply.

A press release from the No on 31 campaign put the statewide cost at $30 million
to $66 million. Campaign officials said the larger number was based on what it cost
Arizona to implement a similar measure.

But when Arizona Department of Education officials disputed the number, No on 31
officials backed off its use.

"We think it's almost impossible to quantify," spokesman Steve Welchert said later.

No on 31 co-chairman Gully Stanford said the $30 million may be more appropriate.
That's based on $192 to teach each of Colorado's 70,000 English language
learners, plus another $15 for each of 840,000 tests. That's the number of English
learners multiplied by tests in each of the state's 12 content standards.

But amendment backers say even the $30 million estimate is way off.

"What they're trying to do is scare the public into believing it's going to cost them a
lot of money," said Rita Montero, chairwoman of the pro-

Amendment 31 group English for the Children of Colorado. "We believe it's going to
save money."

The difference is in the interpretation of the proposed law.

For example, Stanford said the law would require students be tested in each of the
state's content standards. Montero said the law requires testing students only in
one subject.

Also, Montero said switching to English-immersion programs means some
metro-area districts will no longer have to hire teachers from Mexico or purchase
textbooks in Spanish."It's lies and more lies," she said of the cost claims. "The
voters are not as gullible as the No on 31 people seem to believe that they are."

A fiscal impact statement prepared by the Colorado Legislative Council staff states
Amendment 31 would cost some school districts but does not contain specifics.

"The impact . . . will vary depending on how each school district implements the
program," the report states.

Denver Public Schools has not done a potential cost analysis. Jefferson County
Public Schools estimates Amendment 31 would cost the district $4 million to $8
million to implement.

Cindy Hernandez, who oversees English language programs, said that is based on
hiring additional teachers to teach separate English immersion classes.

"That's just teachers," she said. "That doesn't include transportation if we have to
bus students or the testing materials that we would have to purchase."

mitchelln@RockyMountainNews.com (303)892-5245


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