Original URL: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E11583%257E889294%257E,00.html

Bilingual backers get $3 million gift  Donor's funds target Amendment 31
By Eric Hübler
Denver Post Education Writer

Sunday, September 29, 2002 -

Anti-bilingual education activists are scrambling to bolster their campaign after a Fort Collins philanthropist donated $3 million to help their opposition buy  advertising.

Pat Stryker's gift to opponents of Amendment 31 on the Nov. 5 ballot likely was the largest contribution from an individual to an issue campaign in Colorado history, independent pollster Floyd Ciruli said.

"Amendment 31 is in deep trouble," Ciruli said.

Ron Unz, a California businessman who is bankrolling the anti-bilingual proposal, said "there's no way in the universe" he can match Stryker's spending unassisted.

Unz largely financed successful anti-bilingual campaigns in California in 1998 and Arizona in 2000. He reportedly spent $752,000 on his California campaign.

Until the gift was announced Friday, English Plus, the group fighting Amendment 31, had little more than $100,000 to work with. Spokesman John Britz said the group will use Stryker's gift to buy advertising.

"There's no way in the world we'll remotely match that advertising campaign," Unz said.

"It is absolutely astonishing," Unz said. "It represents almost three times as much as I've spent on almost all of my statewide campaigns combined."

Stryker is the granddaughter of Homer Stryker, who founded Stryker Corp., a Michigan medical-equipment manufacturer.

She's also the mother of a student at Harris Bilingual Immersion School in Fort Collins.

"She has firsthand experience with the benefits that bilingual education provides because she has a child there," said Tom Hacker, a spokesman for Pat Stryker.

Stryker declined to be interviewed or to provide more information about her child, Hacker said.

Amendment 31 co-author Rita Montero called Stryker's gift "just one more attempt to give us an inferior education."

Dual-language schools such as Harris and Academia Ana Marie Sandoval in Denver exploit Hispanic children, Montero said.

"I think these folks are like vampires who suck the blood out of our neighborhoods, out of our schools, and out of our children. Not only do they take our schools away but now they use our kids to teach their kids Spanish and it's just a racist attempt to prevent our kids from learning English," Montero said.

Supporters of dual-language education say Spanish-speakers learn English, English-speakers learn Spanish, and both cultures learn to respect each other.

Ciruli said voters favor Amendment 31 but it was starting to lose some support even before Stryker's gift was announced. Stryker's gift could bury it, he said.

"Also it fits right into this theme of Republicans reaching out to Hispanics," Ciruli said.

Unz said Stryker's magnanimity is pointless since Harris and other public dual-language schools could continue operating if the parents of the Spanish-speaking kids took advantage of waiver procedures built into Amendment 31.

Applying for a waiver would involve writing a 250-word essay annually on why bilingual education is good for a particular child. Schools would be under no obligation to grant the waivers, however.

"You could say this woman is willing to sacrifice the lives and education of 60,000 or 70,000 immigrant students so her school doesn't have to fill out any extra forms," Unz said.

"The only fanatical parents I ever encounter in these initiatives are the Anglo parents of dual-immersion students, and this is a perfect case of that," Unz said.


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