Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/news_columnists/article/0,1299,DRMN_86_1532025,00.html
Rosen: Amendment 31: Round 2
Rocky Mountain News November 8, 2002
by Mike Rosen
It was a tight race: 56 percent to 44 percent. But Amendment 31, the English
immersion initiative, came up just a
little short. Outspent 15-to-1 (thanks to a $3 million gift from a wealthy
heiress whose hobby is bankrolling liberal
causes) and up against the full force of the educratic machine, that the vote
was this close is testimony to the grass-roots support for English immersion
among ordinary citizens.
For the time being, the defeat of Amendment 31 means that non-English-speaking
Hispanic children will continue to waste precious years in a segregated language
environment. Ironically, other non-English speaking kids don't have this
problem. Since we have no bilingual programs in Russian, young Ivan
automatically gets the benefits of English immersion.
It's beyond obvious that the fastest way for young children to become fluent in
another language is to be totally immersed in it, and the younger the better.
That Spanish-speaking children can be trapped in bilingual classes for five
years and more, is a stinging indictment of this failed approach. Diehard
defenders of moribund bilingual education programs have their own agenda,
steeped in ethnic politics, multiculturalist ideology, and good old-fashioned
labor-union job protection.
Amendment 31 was never about suing teachers or creating chaos in the schools.
Those were just inflammatory tactics employed by opponents in their deluge of
smarmy broadcast ads to scare soccer moms.
This debate has always been about bilingual and bicultural education.
The organized opposition to Amendment 31 came from those interests who want to
preserve the status quo.
Let me make my objective clear. I want to drive a stake through the heart of
bilingual education. It's costly, it's divisive, it's unnecessary and it's a
failure. The first duty of public schools to non-English speaking students (and
to the general public) should be to teach those students English. Once that's
accomplished, there'll be no need for bilingual education.
Even if some should drop out before graduation, at least they'll have learned
the language and be better able to assimilate in our society. Our policy should
be that all instruction in academic subjects - history, math, social studies,
etc. - in Colorado public schools should be in the English language (except,
obviously, in foreign language courses for students who can already speak
But what do you do with a 14-year-old eighth-grader, recently arrived from
Mexico, who can't speak English? I'd take him out of the eighth grade for a
one-year immersion course, at the end of which he'll be fluent in English. Then
I'd put him right back in the eighth grade to finish school. So it'll take one
year longer. That's all right. As a taxpayer I'm willing to cover the extra
cost. It's a good investment.
The educrats have defeated Amendment 31. They said we shouldn't write education
policy in the state Constitution.
OK, so let's take it to the state legislature. They said they support English
immersion in principle and want parents to have a choice. But the choice they
offer is English as a Second Language. It's not working.
Amendment 31 would have replaced it with Sheltered English Immersion, a superior
program that doesn't dump kids not yet proficient in English into academic
classrooms where they can't understand what's going on. And that contributes to
the disgracefully high Hispanic dropout rate.
I'd prefer to see local school districts reform themselves. But that hasn't
Before Amendment 31 woke the educrats from their stupor, it had been business as
usual - and a failing business, at that - for more than a generation. Since
state revenues cover more than half the cost of K-12 education in Colorado, it's
wholly appropriate for the legislature to intervene and break the logjam with a
new law, starting with the elimination of bilingual education.
We can emulate California's model and their success in transitioning to English
immersion. I wonder if any "progressive"
school districts will have the vision and initiative to lead the way.
Mike Rosen's radio show airs daily from 9 a.m. to noon on 850 KOA.