Panel kills ban on bilingual ed
But English-only supporters won't quit, sponsor says
January 30, 2003
By Arthur Kane, Capitol Bureau
A bill closely resembling last fall's initiative to ban bilingual education
in most cases died in committee Wednesday. But the bill's sponsor said people
will continue to try to get English-only education in Colorado.
"Unz will be back if we don't do something this year," said Rep. Richard Decker,
R-Fountain, referring to California businessman Ron Unz, who sponsored last
year's Amendment 31.
Decker's House Bill 1135 would have required schools to provide two years of
English immersion before sending children to regular classes.
A line of critics testified that the measure hurts children. Christine Cameron,
who has a child in the Boulder School District, said the bill prevents children
from experiencing other cultures.
"Allow us to retain our right to choose how our children are educated," she
said. "It would require our English-speaking children to be segregated in
classrooms where there are only fluent English speakers."
Fort Collins resident Oscar Felix said he was put into a form of English
immersion when his family emigrated from Mexico. It worked for him, but his
siblings did not fare as well.
"Some of my brothers and sisters still suffer from immersion," said Felix, who
has two children at Harris Bilingual Immersion Elementary School. "I was kind of
successful on that, but (the bill) doesn't create more choices. It creates less
Supporters of the bill said it will help children become successful in this
"Without language, you cannot succeed in this country," said Eugene
Megyesy, who immigrated from Hungary in the 1950s. "The priority should be
Rod Greiner of Denver said children who do not know English will find jobs only
in the service industry.
"I think what we're creating with a system of bilingual education is a labor
class," Greiner said, adding that teaching only English would save money on
teachers and textbooks.
Committee members did not buy the arguments from supporters. Representatives
first amended the bill to require only a majority of language class to be taught
in English, then killed the whole bill by a 6-4 vote.
"I think the people of Colorado spoke loud and clear about this restriction,"
said Rep. Peter Groff, D-Denver, referring to Amendment 31. "I have a problem
with the legislative nullification we tend to do up here."
Amendment 31 would have required English immersion for a year, then sent
children to regular classes. But it failed Nov. 5, with more than 56 percent of
voters rejecting it.