Colorado English, Amendment 31 (2002)
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Election results via: Colorado Secretary of State (P.144-155)
Current federal and state laws require school districts to identify English learners, to test their English proficiency annually, and to establish programs to teach these students the English skills necessary to participate in a school's regular education program. Over 70,000 public school students, or approximately nine percent of Colorado's public school enrollment, qualify as English learners.
Generally, these students receive English language assistance through one of the following types of programs:
- English as a Second Language: In English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, English learners are taught entirely in English or mainly in English with some native language assistance. Typically, ESL classes include students with different native languages. English learners may attend the ESL program for a part of the day to work strictly on English skills, or attend for a full day and focus both on English and other academic subjects.
- Bilingual education programs: In bilingual programs, English learners are taught academic subjects in their native language while learning English. Bilingual classes usually have students who share the same native language. The length and content of bilingual programs vary, with some programs emphasizing the development of native language skills more than others.
- Dual language programs or dual immersion programs: In dual language programs, subjects are taught in two languages in order to develop proficiency in both languages. Students in these programs may be fluent in English or be English learners.
Proposal for English immersion programs. The proposal requires school districts to teach English learners in English immersion programs. In these immersion programs, students will be taught English and other academic subjects in English at a level appropriate to their language skills. Generally, the length of time for students to participate in the program is one year, after which time students will begin attending regular classes. School districts may place English learners of different ages, but with similar English skills, in the same classroom. The proposal's requirements do not apply to foreign language programs or to special education programs.
Parents or legal guardians may request a waiver from the English immersion program for their child. Students who may be eligible for a waiver include: students who already possess adequate English skills, students who are ten years of age or older, and students with special needs. School officials decide whether to grant or deny the request for the waiver. Schools in which twenty or more students of the same grade level have received a waiver are required to offer a different type of program, such as a bilingual program. In all other cases, students with a waiver may transfer to a school that offers a different type of program of instruction.
Parents or legal guardians of any Colorado public school student may sue for enforcement of the proposal. Additionally, a school district employee or board member may be sued and may be held personally liable for "willfully and repeatedly" failing to implement English immersion programs. A final enforcement provision concerns parents of children with special needs. Parents who receive a waiver for their child with special needs have a ten-year window during which they may sue school officials for issuing the waiver, if the parents conclude that the waiver injured the education of their child.
The initiative requires that English learners in grades two through twelve be tested by a nationally-normed test. The costs for these tests can range from $25 to $40 per pupil per test, plus the staff time to administer the test and analyze the results. These tests would be in addition to the Colorado Standards Assessment Program tests. Currently, some school districts continue to use nationally-normed tests while others don't or have limited the grades where the test is given. Therefore, the testing requirement cost will vary widely from school district to school district.
Rita Montero, a one-term member of the Denver School Board, headed the effort to pass an English-only schools initiative in Colorado. But it's no secret that the so-called English for the Children campaign is being directed by Ron Unz, the Silicon Valley millionaire who bankrolled similar efforts in California and Arizona.(citation?)
John Britz, spokesman for English Plus, the Colorado group opposing the Montero/Unz campaign.
- fcgov.com: Mayor's Soapboxes - Amendment 31
- Denver Post: A Bigot by Any Other Name, July 21, 2002
- Rocky Mountain News: So Shut up, Coach!, July 18, 2002
- Rocky Mountain News: Bilingual-Ed Foe Chides Unz's Remarks, July 18, 2002
- Denver Post: Bilingual Foe's E-mail Slams Education Chief, July 17, 2002