Original URL: http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020930-37381417.htm
GOP not supporting English measures
Fearful of alienating Hispanic voters, Colorado Republicans are either
ducking the issue or coming out against it. In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney is the
rare Republican candidate who
"They're absolutely scared to death," Mr. Unz said. "[But] it would be
awfully nice if some Republicans would stand up for what Republicans have been
saying all these years."
Not that he didn't expect this. Four years after starting English for the
Children from his Palo Alto, Calif., home, Mr. Unz knows the drill.
First, he spends big bucks to gather enough signatures to put his measure on
the ballot. He watches as the opposition racks up endorsements, contributions,
advertising and volunteers.
In the end, it doesn't matter. On Election Day, his initiative wins by a landslide. That's how it happened in California in 1998 and two years later in Arizona, and that's how the scenario is playing out this year in Colorado and Massachusetts — with one big exception.
While Republican candidates in conservative Colorado refuse to jump on the anti-bilingual bandwagon, in liberal Massachusetts Mr. Romney is gambling that the Unz initiative's rising tide will help lift him into office.
Mr. Romney, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, hasnot only endorsed the measure, known as Question 2, buthe's also made it a centerpiece of his campaign. In an ad introduced last week, Mr. Romney pledges to "end the failed idea of bilingual education in our schools and teach childrenEnglish instead."
Under Question 2, all nonnative limited-English speakers would be placed in
one-year "sheltered immersion" classes, in which they would receive instruction
only in English.
Mr. Romney's only quibble is that Question 2 would allow parents to sue
teachers who don't speak in English in the classroom, a provision he calls too
punitive. If elected, he said he would work with the legislature to remove that
His Democratic opponent, state treasurer Shannon O'Brien, has blasted
Question 2 as a "one size fits all" solution. In a Thursday editorial, the
Boston Globe called the measure "the only substantive issue on which [the
candidates] disagreed" in a recent debate.
In Colorado, where the proposal goes by the name Amendment 31, Democratic
candidates are opposing the measure, while Republican candidates are either
remaining steadfastly neutral or "studying" the question.
This, despite a July survey by Ciruli Associates, a Denver-based polling
firm, showing 66 percent of the voters in favor of the measure and just 29
percent against it.
Analysts say that Colorado Republicans, engaged in an aggressive
Hispanic-outreach effort, worry that their support could jeopardize their status
with Hispanics, who make up 17
"Anybody in public office tends to stay away from these referendums," said
Paul Talmey, president of Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy Inc. in Denver.
"Some of their supporters are obviously going to be for it and some against it,
so why risk alienating any of them?"
Mr. Unz says he's disappointed by the lack of political support, especially
in light of the data from California. Two years after Proposition 227 passed in
1998, the reading scores of limited-English second-graders rose nine percentage
points and the math scores 14 points, turning some of the initiative's
staunchest critics into converts.
He also points to a November 2000 Zogby poll showing that 71 percent of
Hispanics nationwide support dismantling bilingual-education programs in favor
of English immersion.
Critics argue that it's still too soon to draw conclusions from California's
English-only experience. They also point out that most limited-English students
in Colorado are already
"I think we should ask Ron what happens in the second year of his sheltered
immersion if a child isn't ready and is sent with no additional support to the
regular classroom," said
Few expected the Unz initiative to find its way into more states in two
years. And if this year's measure passes in Massachusetts, look for Mr. Unz to
bring his crusade to the
"If this wins in Massachusetts, which is such an incredibly Democratic state
and very liberal, and carries into office a Republican governor, I'd look to see
this in Congress," Mr.