Bilingual Education

Colorado voters shot down Amendment 31 back in November, but now a Republican representative from Fountain says he'll propose a new plan tomorrow, that will do a better job of teaching students English.

Representative Richard Deckers says his plan will teach non-English speaking students the language quickly, but without the threat of lawsuits brought against teachers, as in Amendment 31. The other benefit, says Deckers, is his plan wouldn't be a part of the state constitution. It would be flexible for each of Colorado's districts.

Similar to Amendment 31, Deckers' plan would put kids who don't speak English into immersion programs for up to two years. There, they would learn English, while also learning other subjects in English. Once a child is proficient, he or she would then go into a mainstream classroom.

Deckers says by learning English, the children will have a much greater chance of success in America.

Deckers says he'll work to get more sponsors for his bill. One Denver Senator is sponsoring it in the senate. But, he is encountering opposition to the bill. He says the Colorado Educator's Association opposes it because they are worried jobs could be lost, but, Deckers says that won't happen.

Another concern is the cost of retraining teachers, which Deckers says would be a necessity. His solution? Use the $6.5 million in federal funding the state will be getting this year. Extended Web Coverage

Don't remember Amendment 31? Some key points listed below.

  • Amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning English-language education in Colorado public schools.

  • It would require children to be taught by using English language in their classrooms and requiring children who are learning English to be place in an English immersion program that is intended to last one year or less.

  • If successful, the children will then be placed in ordinary classrooms.

Amendment 31 (Full Text)

English Language Education for Children in Public Schools
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:
Section 1.
Article IX of the Constitution of the state of Colorado is amended BY THE ADDITION OF A NEW SECTION to read:
Section 18: English Language Education for Children in Public Schools.
1. Findings and Declarations The People of Colorado find and declare that:
a. The English language is the common public language of the United States of America and of the state of Colorado. It is spoken by the vast majority of Colorado residents, and is also the leading world language for science, technology, and international business, thereby being the language of economic opportunity; and
b. Immigrant parents are eager to have their children acquire a good knowledge of English, thereby allowing them to fully participate in the American Dream of economic and social advancement; and
c. The government and the public schools of Colorado have a moral obligation and a constitutional duty to provide all of Colorado's children, regardless of their ethnicity or national origins, with an available public school education necessary to become productive members of our society. Fluency and literacy in the English language are among the most important parts of such an education; and.
d. The public schools of Colorado often do an inadequate job of educating immigrant children, wasting financial resources on costly experimental language programs whose failure over past decades is demonstrated by the current high drop-out rates and low English literacy levels of many immigrant children; and
e. Young immigrant children can easily acquire full fluency in a new language, such as English, if they are heavily exposed to that language in the classroom at an early age; and
f. Therefore it is resolved that: all children in Colorado public schools shall be taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible.
2. Definitions
In this section,
a. "Bilingual education," also known as native language instruction, means a language acquisition process for students in which all or substantial portions of the instruction, textbooks, or teaching materials are in the child's native language other than English.
b. "English language classroom" means a classroom in which the language of instruction used by the teaching personnel is overwhelmingly the English language, and in which such teaching personnel are fluent and literate in the English language. English language classrooms encompass both English language mainstream classrooms and sheltered English immersion classrooms
c. "English language mainstream classroom" means a standard classroom, one in which the students either are native English language speakers or already have acquired reasonable fluency in English.
d. "English learner" means a child who is not fluent in English and who is not currently able to perform ordinary classroom work in English.
e. "Sheltered English immersion" means an English language acquisition process for students in which nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with the curriculum and presentation designed for children who are learning the language. Books and instructional materials are in English and all reading, writing, and subject matter are taught in English. Although teachers may use a minimal amount of the child's native language when necessary, no subject matter shall be taught in any language other than English, and children in this program learn to read and write solely in English. Other aspects of this educational methodology shall follow the standard definition of "sheltered English" or "structured English" found in educational literature.
3. English language education
Subject to the exceptions provided in Subsection (4) of this section, all children in Colorado public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English and all children shall be placed in English language classrooms. Children who are English learners shall be educated through sheltered English immersion during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year. Public schools shall be permitted but not required to place in the same classroom English learners of different ages but whose degree of English proficiency is similar. Public schools shall be encouraged to mix together in the same classroom English learners from different native-language groups but with the same degree of English fluency. Once English learners have acquired reasonable fluency in English and are able to perform ordinary school work in English, they shall no longer be classified as English learners and shall be transferred to English language mainstream classrooms. As much as possible, per pupil supplemental funding for English learners shall be maintained. Foreign language classes for children who are not English learners shall not be affected, nor shall special educational programs for physically- or mentally-impaired students be affected.
4. Parental waivers
a. The requirements of Subsection (3) of this section above may be waived with the prior written informed consent, to be provided annually, of the child's parents or legal guardian under the circumstances specified in this subsection (4). Such informed consent shall require that said parents or legal guardian initiate the waiver process and personally visit the school to apply for the waiver and that they there be provided a full description in a language they can understand of the educational materials to be used in the different educational program choices and all the public school educational opportunities available to the child. If a parental waiver has been granted, the affected child may be transferred to classes teaching English and other subjects through bilingual education techniques or other generally recognized educational methodologies permitted by law. Individual schools in which twenty students or more of a given grade level receive a waiver shall be required to offer such a class; in all other cases, such students shall be permitted to transfer to a public school in which such a class is offered, with the costs of such transfer to be provided by the state. Schools may refuse to approve any such waiver application at their sole discretion, without any need to indicate cause.
b. The circumstances in which a parental exception waiver may be applied for under this section are as follows:
III. Children who already know English: the child already possesses good English language skills, as measured by oral evaluation or standardized tests of English vocabulary comprehension, reading, and writing, in which the child scores approximately at or above the state average for his or her grade level or at or above the fifth grade average, whichever is lower; or
IV. Older children: the child is age ten years or older, and it is the informed belief of the school principal and educational staff that an alternate course of educational study would be better suited to the child's overall educational progress and rapid acquisition of basic English language skills; or
V. Children with special individual needs: the child already has been placed for a period of not less than thirty calendar days during that particular school year in an English language classroom and it is subsequently the informed belief of the school principal and educational staff that the child has such special and individual physical or psychological needs, above and beyond the child's lack of English proficiency, that an alternate course of educational study would be better suited to the child's overall educational development and rapid acquisition of English. A written description of no less than two hundred fifty words documenting these special individual needs for the specific child must be provided and permanently added to the child's official school records, and in order to be approved the waiver application must contain the original authorizing signatures of both the school principal and the local school superintendent. Waivers granted under this subparagraph cannot be applied for until after thirty instructional days of a given school year have passed, and this waiver process must be renewed each and every school year. Any such decision to issue such an individual waiver is to be made subject to the examination and approval of the local school superintendent, under guidelines established by and subject to the review of the local board of education. The existence of such special individual needs shall not compel issuance of a waiver, and the parents shall be fully informed of their right to refuse to agree to a waiver.
5. Legal standing and parental enforcement
As detailed in subsections (3) and (4) of this section, all Colorado school children have the right to be provided at their school of choice with an English language public education. The parent or legal guardian of any Colorado school child shall have legal standing to sue for enforcement of the provisions of this section, and if successful shall be awarded normal and customary attorney fees and actual and compensatory damages, but not punitive or consequential damages. Any school district employee or school board member who willfully and repeatedly refuses to implement the terms of this section may be held personally liable for attorney fees and actual and compensatory damages by the child's parents or legal guardian, and cannot be subsequently indemnified for such assessed damages by any public or private third party. Any individual found so liable in a court of law shall be immediately removed from office for malfeasance, and shall be barred from holding any position of authority anywhere within the Colorado government or the public school system for a subsequent period of five years. Parents who apply for and are granted exception waivers under subparagraph (III) of paragraph (B) of subsection (4) of this section still retain for ten years the full legal right to sue the individuals who granted such waivers if they subsequently conclude at any point in the future that the waivers were granted in error and ultimately injured the education of their child.
6. Standardized testing for monitoring education progress
In order to ensure that the educational progress of all Colorado students in learning English together with other academic subjects is properly monitored, a standardized, nationally-normed written test of academic subject matter given in English shall be administered at least once each year to all Colorado public schoolchildren in grades 2 and higher who are English learners. Only students classified as severely learning disabled may be exempted from this test. The particular test to be used shall be selected by the office of the Colorado Commissioner of Education, and it is intended that the test shall generally remain the same from year to year. The national percentile scores of students shall be confidentially provided to individual parents, and the aggregated percentile scores and distributional data for individual schools and school districts shall be made publicly available on an internet web site; the scores for students classified as English learners shall be separately sub-aggregated and made publicly available there as well, with further sub-aggregation based on the English learner program type in which students are enrolled. Scores of students who are neither exempted nor take the test shall be reported as zero. Although administration of this test is required solely for monitoring educational progress, Colorado public officials and administrators may utilize these test scores for other purposes as well if they so choose.
7. Severability
If a provision of this section or its application to any person or circumstances is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this section that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this section are severable.
8. Modification
The provisions of this section cannot be waived, modified, or set aside by any elected or appointed official or administrator, except as through the amendment process provided for in the Colorado constitution, or by a statute to further the section's purpose that is passed by a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature and signed by the Governor.
9. Interpretation
Under circumstances in which portions of this statute are subject to conflicting interpretations, the Findings and Declarations of subsection (1) shall be assumed to contain the governing intent of the statute.
SECTION 2. Effective Date of applicability.
This initiative shall take effect upon proclamation of the vote by the Governor, and shall apply to all school terms beginning more than sixty days after such date.

Source: Colorado Board of Election’s Web site