English immersion initiative advances | SummitDaily.com

English immersion initiative advances

DENVER – The state Supreme Court has upheld the wording of a proposed ballot initiative that would require English-immersion classes for students still learning the language, clearing the way for backers to collect petition signatures.English for Colorado, a Weld County-based group that includes county commissioner William Jerke, wants to ask voters in November to mandate up to a year of immersion classes for students who aren’t proficient in English before they join mainstream classrooms.English Plus, a group that helped defeat an English-only initiative in 2002, had challenged the wording of the proposal, saying it did not clearly state how restrictive it is.The Supreme Court ruled last week the state’s Title Board, which passes judgment on the language of ballot issues, acted properly when it approved the wording.Supporters have until Aug. 7 to collect 67,829 signatures to get the measure on the ballot, said Dana Williams, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.If approved, the immersion classes would mainly be taught in English, and students would not participate in other school subjects such as math, science or social studies, said Weld County attorney Bill Garcia, a supporter.Students age 10 or older and students with special needs could receive bilingual instruction.”The kids would focus on learning English first, and they would be able to get back and focus in classes,” he said. “It’s not English only. It’s English primary.”About 98,000 public school students in Colorado are classified as English language learners, said Barbara Medina, director of the English Language Acquisition Unit of the state education department. Although the students speak a total of 143 languages, 86 percent have a Spanish-speaking background, she said.

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