School bilingual ban loses support
Public approval slips to 49 percent from 66 percent, poll says
By Arthur Kane
Denver Post Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, October 16, 2002 - Support has eroded dramatically for an amendment
that virtually eliminates bilingual education in schools, a new poll has found.
In July, 66 percent of likely voters said they would support Amendment 31, which
limits bilingual education to one year in most cases. But a poll of 500 likely
voters taken Oct. 9-12 by Ciruli Associates shows that only 49 percent now favor
the initiative. Opposition to the measure increased from 29 to 41 percent,
according to the poll, sponsored by The Denver Post, 9News and KOA radio.
John Britz, a campaign consultant for English Plus, a group that opposes the
amendment, said people are rejecting the idea once they hear the details.
"The more they learn about it, the more likely they are to vote no," he added.
"It's so punitive and so restrictive."
Opponents received $3 million late last month from a donor and have staged an
aggressive television campaign against the amendment.
At the time, Ron Unz, the California businessman who has bankrolled Amendment 31
and similar initiatives elsewhere, said his group could not match that kind of
Neither Unz nor local amendment co-author Rita Montero could be reached Tuesday.
They have said in the past that the amendment is needed because the current
system of bilingual education fails to adequately teach children English and
leaves children trapped in bilingual classes when they should have been moved to
English language classes.
The argument that a new system is needed worked for Berthoud resident Brad
Rockman, who says he will probably vote for the amendment.
"I believe every child needs to have the opportunity to get immersion into a
language," Rockman said.
A year should be enough to learn English well enough to attend regular classes,
Amendment 31 calls for moving children who don't speak English into regular
classes after one year of English-language immersion.
Parents could get a waiver, and supporters maintain the move will happen only
when children are ready.
But Britz said the amendment will cost taxpayers about $30 million in taxpayer
money for new testing and take the choice away from parents.
The poll shows support eroded and opposition solidified since July.
People who said they definitely supported the issue fell from 42 to 31 percent,
while people who definitely oppose the amendment nearly doubled from 17 to 30
percent, according to the poll.
Britz said the supporters won't be able to overcome the opposition.
"Once it drops this much, the momentum has changed," he added.
The Ciruli Associates poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage