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Anti-Bilingual-Education Initiative to Be on November Ballot in Oregon

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Though advocates of bilingual education still groan when they hear his name, it's been several years since Ron K. Unz, a California businessman, stepped away from the national debate on how best to educate English-language learners. Before Mr. Unz's withdrawal, he financed campaigns that succeeded in getting voters in Arizona, California, and Massachusetts to approve ballot initiatives to curtail bilingual education in those states. He financed a similar campaign in Colorado as well, but lost that one.

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Now supporters of an initiative to curtail bilingual education in Oregon have succeeded in gathering enough signatures to have it put on the ballot in November, according to Oregon election officials (I just wrote a story for edweek.org about this). The initiative prohibits schools from providing instruction to a student in his or her native language for more than two years. It also limits the amount of time to two years that ELLs can spend in "English-immersion programs," but it doesn't define what it means by such programs. Children who enter school in kindergarten through 4th grade can be in English-immersion programs for only one year, according to the initiative.

Mr. Unz doesn't seem to be in the picture in Oregon. But someone named Bill Sizemore is very much in the picture. He, and two other men, registered the initiative for ELLs with the Oregon secretary of state's office. A June 18 Statesman Journal article calls Mr. Sizemore "a onetime-prolific petition writer" who ran for governor of Oregon in 1998 and lost to the Democratic candidate, John Kitzhaber. Russell Walker, another person who registered the initiative with the state, is the state director of Freedom Works.

A coalition of immigrant- and refugee-rights groups in Oregon have formed a coalition to fight the initiative. A group called Causa is part of that coalition.

This all brings back memories of the debates over the Unz initiatives from 1998 to 2002. The next task I've assigned to myself in covering this story? Follow the money.

Update: A June 18 Oregonian article tells about the initiative.

2 Comments

This is a form of hate speech. It takes 7 - 10 years to get the 50% and stay there according to Collier, et all,'s research and no one has been able to prove otherwise. She recommended that students who qualify for ESOL programs receive it for a minimum of six years. I would love to know where this notion of 3 years which seems to appear in every law for ESOL in the US came from.

It seems to me that Mr. Sizemore is working with a dual agenda, one of racist attitudes and another from extreme anti-immigration initiatives. What results from persons like him, is a series of counterproductive budget allocations which in turn create faulty educational systems producing citizens, or potential citizens, who are not well educated and grounded. And this is within a country who prides itself in being "democratic" Is this initiative truly democratic? or is democracy being used in this case for discrimination? If Mr. Sizemore were to have one child who happened to be one year old, placed in Kindergarten and forced to produce at a fourth grade level, perhaps he would understand the extent of the damage done to others by passing his initiative! Where has common sense gone?

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