Anti-Bilingual Education Initiative in Colorado

Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and One Nation Indivisible, a Washington, D.C.-based group headed by Linda Chavez, this initiative would have required 62,595 valid signatures of registered Colorado voters by August 7, 2000. But the measure was challenged by Common Sense Colorado, a pro-bilingual group, and it was invalidated in a unanimous ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court. 

English for the Children Initiative

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:

Section 1. Amendment of the Colorado Constitution for English Education.

Article IX of the Constitution of the state of Colorado is amended by the addition of a new section to read:

Section 17: English Language Education.
(1) General declarations. The English language is the common language of the United States and of Colorado, and proficiency in English is a prerequisite for economic opportunity. English proficiency is one of the most important skills that public schools provide students, regardless of their ethnicity or national origin. Full proficiency in a new language, such as English, is best developed through high levels of exposure to that language in the classroom at an early age. The current high dropout rates and low English proficiency levels of many immigrant children demonstrate that existing programs in many public schools do a poor job of educating immigrant children. Immigrant parents are eager to have their children acquire a good knowledge of English as quickly as possible, so their children may participate fully in the American Dream of economic and educational advancement. 

(2) Definitions. For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following definitions:

 (a) "Bilingual education" means any language acquisition program or other program of instruction in which some instruction, textbooks, and/or teaching materials are in the English-learner's native language. 

(b) "English language mainstream classroom" means a standard classroom--that is, one in which the language of instruction is English and the students are native-English-speakers or have acquired enough fluency in English to be able to participate meaningfully in the program of instruction without additional accommodations. 

(c) "English-learner" means a child who is not able to participate meaningfully in an English language mainstream classroom and primarily speaks a language other than English. 

(d) "Structured English immersion" means a program of instruction specifically designed to teach English and academic subjects to English-learners, in which all instruction is in English at a level appropriate to the English proficiency of the class of English-learners. 

(3) English language education.

 (a) All children in the state's public schools shall be taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible. 

(b) Subject to the exceptions provided in subsection (4), all children in the state's public schools shall be taught in English. 

(c) Children who are English-learners shall be educated through a program of structured English immersion during a temporary transition period not normally to exceed one year. Once English-learners have acquired a good working knowledge of English, they shall be transferred to English language mainstream classrooms. 

(4) Exceptions.

 (a) The requirements of subsection (3) may be waived with the prior written informed consent, to be provided annually, of the child's parent or legal guardian. 

(b) Such informed consent shall require that: 
I. The parent or legal guardian must visit the school to apply for the waiver; and,
II. The parent or legal guardian shall be provided by the school with a full description, in a language they can understand, of the educational materials and program of instruction offered at the school or at other schools within the same school district.

 (c) If after such a visit, the parent or legal guardian wishes the child to be in a program of instruction other than that required in subsection (3), the parent or legal guardian may waive the requirements of subsection (3) by executing a written waiver provided by the school district that indicates the parent's or legal guardian's choice. If a parent has executed a written waiver, the child may be transferred to classes where the child is taught English and other subjects through bilingual education or other generally recognized educational methodologies permitted by law. Schools that do not offer bilingual education must allow parents to transfer their children to a school within the district that offers this program, if one is available. Parents shall be informed in a language they can understand of their right to refuse to agree to a waiver of the requirements of subsection (3). No school or school district shall be required to offer a bilingual education program. 

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect any foreign language instruction program designed to teach English-speakers another language. Native speakers of other languages who do not already have a good working knowledge of English may not participate in any foreign language programs for more than one class period per day without a parental waiver as specified in this subsection. 

(e) Nothing in this subsection (4) shall be construed to prevent any teacher or instructional aide from providing supplemental assistance in the native language to English-learners for the purposes of translation and clarification. Nor shall this subsection (4) be construed to prevent school personnel from using languages other than English for non-instructional purposes, including communicating with parents or legal guardians. 

(f) Nothing in this subsection (4) shall be construed as imposing or mandating any limits on the amount of time English-learners may receive specialized assistance in order to learn English or academic subject matter. Students may continue to receive specialized language assistance after they exit the structured English immersion program. 

(5) Legal standing and parental enforcement. If a child has been denied an English language education under subsection (3), the child's parent or legal guardian shall have legal standing to sue for enforcement of the provisions of this section. If successful, the parent or legal guardian shall be awarded normal and customary attorneys' fees and actual damages, but not punitive or consequential damages. 

(6) Charter schools. Nothing in this section shall affect the creation, curriculum, or the operation of charter schools. 

(7) Interpretation. Under circumstances in which portions of this section are subject to conflicting interpretations, subsection (3) shall be assumed to contain the governing intent of this section. 

Section 2. Effective Date.

This act shall take effect upon proclamation by the Governor, and shall apply to public schools in school districts with school terms beginning more than sixty days after such date.