English-immersion bill floated
Lawmaker seeks to prevail where Amend. 31 failed
By Nancy Mitchell,
Rocky Mountain News, November 9, 2002
The battle over how best to teach Colorado's non-English speaking students isn't
A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill in the 2003 General Assembly that
would require English immersion, much as the failed Amendment 31 sought to do.
State Rep. Richard Decker, R-Fountain, said he is still writing the bill. But
the former teacher said he is looking at requiring English-immersion programs
for two years.
Amendment 31, which was rejected by 56 percent of voters Tuesday, required such
immersion programs for one year before sending English-language learners into
It's unclear how much support Decker's bill would have.
Gov. Bill Owens has publicly supported English immersion for children who speak
But his spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said Owens believes it's too soon after the
initiative's failure to tackle the issue in the General Assembly.
Owens did not support Amendment 31 itself, citing provisions it contained that
would have authorized lawsuits against teachers among other things.
As for Decker's proposal, Owens will not comment on it until he sees it, Hopkins
State Rep. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, chairwoman of the House Education
Committee, also has reservations. She opposed Amendment 31 because she says
local school boards should decide how English language learners are educated.
"It's a local control issue," she said. "So if someone brings forward a bill, I
would have to take a pretty serious look at it."
Gully Stanford, the State Board of Education member who led the statewide
campaign against Amendment 31, said he welcomes the attention paid to teaching
the state's 70,000 English-language learners.
"Certainly, an immersion pilot program would help clarify issues related to
English language acquisition," he said. "But we should approach any kind of
prioritization very carefully and with profound respect for local control."
What clearly emerged from the statewide debate over Amendment 31, he said, was
the sense that "we're not doing a
good enough job by our English-language learners."
"The statewide interest in 31 does provide an opportunity for us to ask
ourselves how to do better," Stanford said. "Anything that improves student
achievement deserves our attention."
mitchelln@RockyMountainNews .com or (303)892-5245