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31 a flawed amendment

Don Rogers

Amendment 31, of course, represents California businessman-advocate Ron Unz to codify his gospel of ending most bilingual and other means of teaching non-English speaking children how to study in the language of our country in favor of immersion in English. He succeeded in California and then Arizona. Now he and his followers see the same one-size-fits-all means of education for Colorado.

Unz, the son of a single mom who spoke not a word of English when she came to this country, is hardly the fellow the anti-immigrant crowd must imagine in their unfortunate non-reasons to handcuff the educational system. He in fact was outraged enough at California’s infamous proposition to exclude immigrant children from school to run for governor himself.

The success of the proposition in California that eliminated bilingual education in favor of immersion is up for debate. Scores for the Spanish-speaking students are up, which is good. But so are scores overall, even in districts that never offered bilingual education. Other factors in California clearly are at work than this upswing in test scores, which widens the gap of progress between native speakers of languages other than English and English-speakers.



Aside from the values of local control over how districts go about the knotty problem of how best to teach non-English speaking students the dominant tongue for education and life in the United States, this amendment does come with a couple of fatal flaws.

One is the clause about parents suing educators up to 10 years after receiving waivers from the immersion program or for refusing to follow the rules of the amendment. The other is the nature of cementing an educational approach into the state Constitution.



Rather than employing the evolving science and art of education to find the best ways of teaching our kids, we turn to a political document and litigation? What’s next, a mandate on how to conduct brain surgery?

The frustration in improving education – for English-speakers as well as children from foreign lands – is understandable. A constitutional amendment locking in a thoroughly debatable technique is plain folly. We recommend rejecting this amendment.

Amendment 27



Campaign finance reform

Campaign finance “reform” is a lot like fixing the tax code by adding new rules. The means of “fixing” is screwy. The special interests won’t retreat because yet another well-meaning rule has made the system more convoluted. They’ll find the inevitable loophole and work from there.

It’s a axiom nearly as strong as gravity: The unintended consequence of campaign funding limits makes the dollars harder to track rather than easier. This one may raise some revenue from fines the state will be able to impose on hapless candidates who don’t read the fine print, but as for “reform,” this ain’t it. We recommend a “no” vote.

Amendment 28

Mail ballot elections

This one requires elections after Jan. 1, 2005, to be done only by mail. The aim is convenience and to boost voter turnout.

Maybe we are just hopeless traditionalists, reveling in those election day trips to genuine polling places, where our names are checked against eligible voter lists before we get our ballots.

Trusting the Postal Service, particularly in the High Country, to deliver our vote is a little bit iffy, speaking from experience. Forgive the flippancy. Truth is, we already have an adequate alternative in the mail if we so desire, and fraud remains a concern with this system. Supporters tacitly recognize the potential by adding bigger penalties to such crimes.

The system we have is good enough, and voter are not terribly burdened by any means. No need at this time to change how we vote. We recommend a “no” vote.

Amendment 29

Primary election selection

This amendment eliminates neighborhood party caucuses and assembly meetings from Colorado’s system for primary elections. Most candidates for office would have to get fewer signatures and more time to get them on their petitions for candidacy. And an election official would not have to investigate the validity of signatures.

Proponents note declining attendance at party caucuses, which they view as therefore falling perhaps too much under the control of a few party activists. But the current system provides for candidates to make the ballot via petitions and opponents say incumbents shouldn’t have to undergo the petition-signature gathering process.

Anyone who is interested can attend caucuses and assemblies, which do provide an opportunity to discuss issues and candidacies as part of the party process. The key word here is “Interest.” The problem isn’t in the system but the lack of current interest in participating in our democratic process.

There’s no need to throw the caucus system out. Vote “no.”

Amendment 30

Election day registration

This amendment would allow Coloradans to register to vote and cast a ballot on election day, starting after Jan. 1, 2004. Proponents note that the six states that have this convenience have boosted turnout by about 15 percent, and have not reported any confirmed cases of fraud.

This is not to say that fraud couldn’t happen, and it seems not particularly difficult to pull off.

Registering to vote isn’t particularly burdensome in Colorado, and voters ought to take at least enough civic responsibility to register within the current deadline of 29 days before the next election in which they intend to vote. Further, this most definitely does not need to clutter the state Constitution. Vote “no.”

Referendum A

End DA term limits

Admittedly, our response is somewhat knee-jerk. Term limits on their face are silly in a democracy. “Shoot me before I vote him in again” is as poor an excuse as any conceived for such laws that guarantee we throw out a lot of good, experienced and effective elected leaders along with the relatively few rotten apples.

Absolutely, the DAs should be exempted from a law purporting to save us from ourselves when we already have the means to remove office-holders we collectively deem should go. The county questions about ending term limits for elected county department heads – such as sheriff, clerk and recorder, and so on – should be approved as well.

On a statewide scale, let’s start by ending term limits for district attorneys. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Other referendums

Pick ’em

Let’s see, there’s one allowing public-private partnerships provided by local governments, giving the Legislature power to set qualifications for coroner, repeal of obsolete parts of the state Constitution, and whether to add a Cesar Chavez state holiday to the 10 days paid ones for state employees.

We’re not prepared to make recommendations on these.


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