Northwest Denver school a target of ballot initiative
By Holly Yettick, Rocky Mountain News
October 10, 2002
It was one of issues that helped sink Rita Montero's 1999 Denver school board
Now, a northwest Denver school called Academia Ana Marie Sandoval is among the
targets of Montero's campaign for
Amendment 31, a ballot initiative that would require English learners to be
taught in English.
Montero's opposition to founding Sandoval is thought to have damaged her chance
to be re-elected to the Denver school board three years ago. Montero lost to
Lucia Guzman, a candidate who staunchly supported opening the school, where a
"dual-language" program is used to teach English speakers Spanish and
Concern about Amendment 31's impact on the school was one of the reasons why
Guzman and other Denver school board members have unanimously agreed to oppose
the initiative, which voters will reject or approve Nov. 5.
The 164-student school opened last year. It falls outside the federal court
order that dictates how most Denver students learn English. This means that it
would be immediately subject to the provisions of Amendment 31, should it pass.
In California and Arizona, where voters have approved initiatives similar to
Amendment 31, dual-language programs have survived.
But Denver school board members believe that Amendment 31's tough legal
consequences would make it impossible to grant the waivers required to teach
Spanish speakers in Spanish.
Montero believes dual language would survive the initiative.
But that doesn't mean she supports it.
She says Sandoval caters to English speakers, who use poor Mexican immigrants as
unpaid tutors for their children.
"The complaint I've heard from Spanish-speaking parents is their kids spent the
majority of their day teaching the English speakers to speak Spanish," she said.
"For the English speakers, it is an enrichment program. Learning English is not
Her evidence that the school fails to appeal to Spanish speakers is the waiting
list, which includes 150 English speakers and 25 Spanish speakers.
Because relatively few Spanish speakers applied last year, Sandoval is only 43
percent Spanish speaking, even though it
serves a heavily Spanish-speaking area and aims to draw half its students from
Principal Joann Trujillo Hays says Spanish speakers are interested in dual
The school just needs to work harder at getting the word out to them.
She denies Spanish speakers are unpaid tutors.
Montero says immigrant families are more interested in learning English than in