Original URL: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/election/article/0,1299,DRMN_36_1514685,00.html
Kids back bilingual ed
Students at forum speak out against Amendment 31
By Holly Yettick, Rocky Mountain News
October 31, 2002
Like most proposals to change the lives of children, Amendment 31 has been
debated mostly by adults. And it is the adults who will decide five days from
now whether the anti-bilingual education initiative makes it into the state's
But for two hours in the North High cafeteria Wednesday night, the discussion
was in the hands of those who would be affected most by the amendment: children.
"As students, we don't really get our voices heard that much," said North
student Mario Trujillo. "If Amendment 31 is passed, it's going to affect our
Trujillo spoke against the measure, which would require most English learners to
spend no more than a year in intensive English courses before moving into
So did everyone at the forum, which attracted about 45 people. The forum was
sponsored by two student groups that oppose the initiative - Jovenes Unidos and
the North High chapter Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA). No
initiative supporters spoke.
Rita Montero, who leads the campaign for the amendment, said she turned down the
invitation to the forum when it arrived Tuesday night because she already had
North High MEChA president Nancy Aguilar explained during the forum that Montero
was absent because of "a misunderstanding and a lack of communication."
The forum started with a presentation by amendment opponent Jorge Garcia, who
works for the Boulder Valley school district.
Then, the students weighed in.
Eva Bonilla spoke little English when she moved from Mexico to Denver at the age
of 7. She says it took her four years but she learned English well in Denver
Public Schools' bilingual classes. She is now a North High honor student who
aspires to be a psychiatrist.
She believes she might have learned English faster in all-English classes, but
not necessarily better.
"It wouldn't have been easy for me to be able to understand people," she said.
A few do succeed in bilingual classes, Montero said. But she called them
"There are hundreds of others who don't make it through," she said.
"Or they graduate from high school thinking they're an honor student - but an
honor student at a West High School or a North High School can't be compared to
the level of rigor other students are getting at schools across the city."
Students also complained that Amendment 31 would allow too little time to learn
English while robbing them of their language and their culture.
Right now, too many students are spending too much time in Spanish classes,
Montero said. Bonilla acknowledged some students from her third- and sixth-grade
classes for English learners are still in English Language Acquisition in high
As for the amendment's potential impact on students' culture, Montero said: "I
feel sorry for them if they think they need a government institution to help
them proclaim their cultural identity as well as their linguistic identity. How
sad for them. How sad for them."