Original URL:  http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/news_columnists/article/0,1299,DRMN_86_1493973,00.html

Editorial: The lies told about Amendment 31
Rocky Mountain News
October 22, 2002

What do voters really know about Amendment 31? Not what its opponents' $3 million worth of scare-tactic ads are saying, that's for sure.

We don't often comment on ads, but the level of inaccuracy of these demands response. That's particularly true because
supporters of the initiative that would virtually end bilingual education in Colorado don't have $3 million or anything like it to rebut the false and inflammatory charges being hurled their way. So here goes - and remember, we're against Amendment 31. But we're also embarrassed to have allies willing to indulge in such ugly distortions.

The first in the series of ads produced for English Plus claimed Amendment 31 "will knowingly force children who can barely speak English into regular classrooms, creating chaos and disrupting learning."

No, it won't. Of Colorado's 70,000 English learners, state officials say, 47,600 are already in regular classrooms, most or all of the day.

They aren't creating chaos or disrupting learning now, are they? And if Amendment 31 passes, most of the rest would switch from the bilingual classes they are in now, where they receive part of their instruction in their native language, to all-English immersion classes with other English learners.

Under one interpretation of the amendment, all 70,000 English learners would be pulled out of their current classes, including the ones who now spend most of their day in regular classes with native-born English speakers, and sent to immersion programs instead. We think that's a bad idea; in fact it's one of the reasons we oppose Amendment 31. But the effect on regular classes would be the opposite of what the ad claims.

The second week's ad continued the theme of chaos and disruption, with visuals of children looking apprehensively at
classmates. We hope that these ads were not deliberately crafted to appeal covertly to ethnic prejudice, but at the very least they attempt to frighten people. That's reprehensible enough.

Gully Stanford of English Plus says the ads portray a worst-case scenario. That would be a plausible excuse, if it were what the the ads said. But they exude certainty that all these awful things will happen.

And they won't. The current ad in the series, for example, says Amendment 31 will raise taxes. Not in Colorado it won't, not without a vote of the people.

Another theme is the threat of lawsuits. One ad says the amendment "would force teachers who try to help children in their
native language to face lawsuits and be banned from teaching for five years."

Of course, anybody can face a lawsuit at any time. But the amendment specifically provides for two kinds of suits. One is for school employees who "willfully and repeatedly" fail to follow the law. And that doesn't mean dropping occasional foreign phrases into a lecture, which is permitted. It means teaching other subjects in a language other than English - not something that would happen incidentally and accidentally.

The other kind of suit could be filed against administrators who grant parents' request to have their children in bilingual classes. That's a bad idea too, and one of the reasons we oppose the amendment. But it wouldn't be teachers who would be the targets of such lawsuits.

There are several good reasons to oppose Amendment 31. Why do these people think they need to make up more?