Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/election/article/0,1299,DRMN_36_1514685,00.html

Kids back bilingual ed

Students at forum speak out against Amendment 31

By Holly Yettick, Rocky Mountain News
October 31, 2002

Like most proposals to change the lives of children, Amendment 31 has been debated mostly by adults. And it is the adults who will decide five days from now whether the anti-bilingual education initiative makes it into the state's constitution.

But for two hours in the North High cafeteria Wednesday night, the discussion was in the hands of those who would be affected most by the amendment: children.

"As students, we don't really get our voices heard that much," said North student Mario Trujillo. "If Amendment 31 is passed, it's going to affect our culture greatly."

Trujillo spoke against the measure, which would require most English learners to spend no more than a year in intensive English courses before moving into mainstream classrooms.

So did everyone at the forum, which attracted about 45 people. The forum was sponsored by two student groups that oppose the initiative - Jovenes Unidos and the North High chapter Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA). No initiative supporters spoke.

Rita Montero, who leads the campaign for the amendment, said she turned down the invitation to the forum when it arrived Tuesday night because she already had plans.

North High MEChA president Nancy Aguilar explained during the forum that Montero was absent because of "a misunderstanding and a lack of communication."

The forum started with a presentation by amendment opponent Jorge Garcia, who works for the Boulder Valley school district.

Then, the students weighed in.

Eva Bonilla spoke little English when she moved from Mexico to Denver at the age of 7. She says it took her four years but she learned English well in Denver Public Schools' bilingual classes. She is now a North High honor student who aspires to be a psychiatrist.

She believes she might have learned English faster in all-English classes, but not necessarily better.

"It wouldn't have been easy for me to be able to understand people," she said.

A few do succeed in bilingual classes, Montero said. But she called them exceptions.

"There are hundreds of others who don't make it through," she said.

"Or they graduate from high school thinking they're an honor student - but an honor student at a West High School or a North High School can't be compared to the level of rigor other students are getting at schools across the city."

Students also complained that Amendment 31 would allow too little time to learn English while robbing them of their language and their culture.

Right now, too many students are spending too much time in Spanish classes, Montero said. Bonilla acknowledged some students from her third- and sixth-grade classes for English learners are still in English Language Acquisition in high school.

As for the amendment's potential impact on students' culture, Montero said: "I feel sorry for them if they think they need a government institution to help them proclaim their cultural identity as well as their linguistic identity. How sad for them. How sad for them."


Home Page     Events and Information   Awards&Scholarships   AABE NEWS 2004      News( 2003)       News(2002)       Publications      Board_Information     Board Contact     Goals      Feedback     Research Links     Links