Anti-bilingualism wins in Massachusetts

By STEVE SAILER, UPI National Correspondent  |  Nov. 6, 2002 at 4:05 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- As polls in Massachusetts predicted, anti-bilingual education forces have won a massive victory on the "Question 2" initiative, which would have scrapped the state's current system of multi-year transitional bilingual education in public schools in favor of a single year of "English immersion" for students who don't speak English.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, the anti-bilingual education initiative was leading 68 percent to 32 percent.

In contrast, a nearly identical measure in Colorado, Amendment 31, was on the verge of defeat. With 86 percent of the precincts counted, it was losing 56 percent to 44 percent.

Both English immersion campaigns were backed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz, who helped organize successful initiatives outlawing bilingual education in California in 1998 and in Arizona in 2000. The over 2-to-1 margin in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the nation, is his biggest ratio of victory yet. In both California and Arizona, the English immersion initiatives garnered just a little over 60 percent.

In heavily immigrant Lowell, Mass., English immersion cruised to a 72-28 victory. In Waltham, a suburb in the Route 128 technology belt west of Boston, it gathered 64 percent.

Boston voted 51 percent to 49 percent against the initiative. The measure did worst in liberal university towns. In the feminist mecca of Northampton, home of two women-only colleges, 60 percent opposed it. In Cambridge, home of Harvard and MIT, 62 percent voted "no."

Unz hopes to use the triumph in Massachusetts, one of the intellectual and media centers of the country, to bring his movement against bilingual education to national recognition.

Despite its popularity in California and Arizona, professional politicians did not rush to jump on his bandwagon. "Most politicians are nervous about getting near an issue perceived as ethnically charged, so they mostly run and hide until the shooting is over," Unz said.

In Massachusetts, however, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney staunchly backed the English immersion initiative. He was elected governor Tuesday.

On the other hand, the similar Unz-supported measure appears to have lost in more conservative Colorado. His program was opposed by incumbent Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who coasted to re-election last night.

Unz noted, "Support for our Amendment 31 in Colorado has withered under a devastating advertising barrage." About $3.2 million was spent to defend bilingual education in Colorado, more than 10 times what the English immersion forces spent. Almost all the anti-Amendment 31 funding came from billionaire heiress Pat Stryker.

The No campaign in Colorado came up with a novel theme, arguing in its ads, "We know that Amendment 31 will knowingly force children who can barely speak English into regular classrooms, creating chaos and disrupting learning."

Unz denounced this as promoting segregated schooling.

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