Colorado English Language Education, Initiative 31 (2002)

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The Colorado English Language Education Initiative, also known as Initiative 31, was on the November 5, 2002 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure would have required that all public school students be taught in English unless they are exempted under the proposal. It would have allowed waivers for some students to be given billingual education, but explicitly stated that these waivers should be "very difficult to obtain because the school can grant them only in very restrictive circumstances and can deny them for any reason or no reason thereby reducing the likelihood that bilingual education will be used."[1]

Election results

Colorado Initiative 31 (2002)
Defeatedd No781,01656.22%
Yes 608,264 43.78%

Election results via: Colorado Secretary of State (P.144-155)

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning English-language education in Colorado public schools, and, in connection therewith, requiring children to be taught by using the English language in their classrooms and requiring children who are learning English to be placed in an English immersion program that is intended to last one year or less and, if successful, will result in placement of such children in ordinary classrooms; exempting from such requirements those children whose parents or legal guardians obtain annual waivers allowing the children to transfer to classes using bilingual education or other educational methodologies, but making such waivers very difficult to obtain because the school can grant them only in very restrictive circumstances and can deny them for any reason or no reason thereby reducing the likelihood that bilingual education will be used; requiring schools that grant any waivers to offer bilingual education or other educational methodologies when they have at least 20 students in the same grade who receive a waiver and in all other cases permitting students to transfer to a public school in which bilingual education or other methodologies are offered, with the cost of such transfer, excluding transportation, to be provided by the state; allowing a parent or legal guardian to sue public employees granting a waiver if the parent or guardian later concludes that the waiver was granted in error and injured the child's education; creating severe legal consequences identified in the amendment for such public employees who willfully and repeatedly refuse to implement the amendment; and requiring schools to test children learning English, enrolled in second grade or higher, to monitor their progress, using a standardized nationally-normed test of academic subject matter given in English?[2]


The following background information was provided in the state Blue Book analysis of Amendment 31:[3]

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.[2]

Testing requirements

The initiative required that English learners in grades two through twelve be tested by a nationally-normalizeded test. The costs for these tests could 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. In 2002, some school districts continue to use nationally-normalized tests while others did not or had limited the grades where the test was given. Therefore, the testing requirement cost was estimated to vary widely from school district to school district.[3]

See also

Suggest a link

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Colorado State Legislative Council, "Ballot History," accessed February 25, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Colorado Elections Department, "Blue Book Analysis of 2002 ballot measures," accessed January 8, 2014