Lamm: radio ad urges end to bilingual classes
By Eric Hubler
Denver Post Education Writer
Sunday, October 27, 2002
Former Gov. Dick Lamm is taking a stand against bilingual education, which he
helped establish in Colorado.
Lamm appears in a new radio ad in support of Amendment 31, a proposal to ban
native-language support for immigrants in public schools.
English for the Children Colorado began airing the ad Friday in an effort to
stem a downslide in support for the measure.
In the ad, Lamm says he regrets supporting legislation that allowed schools to
help immigrant children learn English by aiding them in their native language,
"I established bilingual education in Colorado 20 years ago, but now I'm voting
for Amendment 31 to undo that mistake," Lamm says in the ad.
English for the Children founder Ron Unz, a California businessman and
politician, said the spot can hardly be expected to have the same impact as the
TV and radio ads the opposition began running after landing an eyebrow- and
profile-raising $3 million donation a few weeks ago.
But, Unz said, 80 percent of Colorado voters will hear the "yes" ad before the
Nov. 5 election.
The ad is partly about education and partly about other ads. Lamm accuses the
other side of "false advertising" for saying the amendment could subject large
numbers of educators to lawsuits.
"This is false. California passed a similar measure four years ago, and not a
single teacher has been sued," Lamm says.
School boards have criticized Amendment 31 because it would allow parents of
children who stay in bilingual programs, but don't learn English, to sue.
It's true that the California version contains a similar provision. But the
Colorado version goes further by creating a 10-year statute of limitations and
banning noncompliant educators from any public service for five years.
Unz told the Denver school board several weeks ago that the changes were
necessary because too many California educators flouted the law.
Until recently, Amendment 31 enjoyed a comfortable lead in polls commissioned by
Unz and by news organizations. It slid dramatically after the "no" ads started
airing. As of Friday, Denver Post pollster Ciruli Associates found 36
percent of likely voters supporting the amendment and 49 percent opposing it.
If Amendment 31 fails, it would be the first setback in Unz's efforts to undo
bilingual education with citizen ballot initiatives. Arizona passed a similar
measure backed by Unz in 2000, and Massachusetts appears on the verge of
doing likewise on Nov. 5, Unz said.
Unz said he was surprised his initiative was having more trouble in Colorado
than Massachusetts, since Massachusetts, he said, is generally more liberal than
Lamm, a Democrat, was elected governor of Colorado in 1974 and held the office
for 12 years.