Original URL: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/301/oped/To_avoid_a_failed_system_vote_no+.shtml

To avoid a failed system, vote no

By Tim Duncan,  Boston Globe, 10/28/2002

S IF GUIDING our kids through their school years wasn't daunting enough for
parents, on Nov. 5 our children's futures will be on the ballot. Question 2 will
decide whether the school my son and his friends attend can continue to teach them -
as they have successfully been doing - using the methods that their teachers and we,
as parents, have chosen.

All parents understand the value of kids getting the best possible start in life. The
education our children get today will help them fulfill their dreams in the future. With
that in mind, I'll be voting ''no'' on Question 2. Here's why:

Question 2 would undo valuable education reforms passed by the Legislature only a
few months ago with broad bipartisan support. Those reforms will improve the way
children learn English; allow greater local control; maintain parental choice, and
provide strict accountability for every school district in Massachusetts. Instead,
Massachusetts would be left with a ''sink-or-swim'' scheme imported from California
that fails kids, threatens teachers, and costs taxpayers millions.

The flaws in the system that Question 2 would impose are numerous, but perhaps the
most serious is that it has been a proven failure in California.

According to the California Department of Education, fewer than 10 percent of the
children in the system have graduated into mainstream classes in each of the four
years since a similar ballot question was passed there.

Rather than staying in segregated classes for one year, as proponents claim, over 1
million children in California have been left behind, and are forced to stay in bilingual
classes far longer than kids do in Massachusetts. For example, close to 80 percent of
English-learning children in Boston are able to do ordinary class work in English
within three years or less.

We simply can't afford to import a failed system to Massachusetts. Nor can we
afford the $125 million price tag that Question 2 carries. A task force of educators
and professors from MIT, Boston College, and Salem State has studied the
''immersion'' system that would be introduced if the ballot measure passed. Based on
official figures from California and Massachusetts, they estimate that taxpayers
would be left with a $125 million tab for the new system.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation agrees that there would be additional
costs to the state. At a time when the deteriorating economy is forcing our state to
cut programs for families, seniors, and children, as well as aid to towns and cities, we
simply can't afford this costly experiment.

Children and taxpayers will not be the only groups adversely affected by the passage
of Question 2. Hidden away in the fine print of the law is a provision that would allow
teachers to be sued if they teach a struggling child in their native language. Let me
cite the section of the proposed law to make this point clear.

The law itself says, ''The parent or legal guardian of any school child shall have legal
standing to sue for enforcement of the provisions of this chapter, and if successful
shall be awarded reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and compensatory damages.''

Ron Unz, the California businessman who is bankrolling Question 2, is quoted in the
media as saying ''[Teachers] would have to pay out of their own pocket. And I think
there's a perfectly reasonable possibility some of them might be driven into personal

Despite what Unz thinks, we in Massachusetts have greater respect for our teachers,
and understand the incredibly difficult job they do. We've no doubt that most of the
people in our state would rather they were allowed to focus on teaching children
English, not fighting off lawsuits.

Labels and barbs have been tossed around during the campaign. The initiative has
been branded ''anti-immigrant'' and Unz's racist comments about the secretary of
education (who disagrees with the question's proponents) have not helped keep the
campaign focused on the harsh realities of Question 2.

Indeed, similar initiatives passed in California and Arizona because of the deep
pockets of Unz and his ability to keep the debate away from the true facts
surrounding Question 2's immersion system.

But the coalition arrayed against Question 2 in Massachusetts is broad, and in the
cold light of day, we understand the immense damage the initiative would inflict.
Teachers and parents, labor and business, religious and political leaders alike - from
Ted Kennedy to President Bush - oppose this initiative. Why would people from such
diverse groups agree that passing Question 2 would be a disaster for Massachusetts?

Quite simply because it fails kids, threatens teachers, and hits taxpayers in the
pocket. Vote for our kids, teachers and our economy. Vote no on Question 2.

Tim Duncan is chairman of the Committee for Fairness to Children and Teachers.

This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 10/28/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.



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