- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

DENVER The anti-bilingual education initiative, which won overwhelming support in California and Arizona, could face its first defeat today at the hands of Colorado voters.
The latest polls show Amendment 31, sponsored by California software millionaire Ron Unz, on the ropes, its double-digit lead erased by a relentless and well-funded opposition campaign.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the same initiative, called Question 2, appears to be sailing to victory with a comfortable 27-point lead, according to a Boston Globe poll.
Why the difference? In a word, money.
Six weeks ago, Colorado heiress Patricia Stryker stunned the Colorado political community when she donated $3 million to English Plus, the group fighting Amendment 31.
The contribution, believed to be the largest in state history, has allowed English Plus to blanket the airwaves with ads claiming Amendment 31 would "knowingly force children who can barely speak English into regular classrooms," creating "chaos and disruption of learning."
Even so, polls taken days before the election show the voters still fluctuating dramatically on the issue. As of mid-October, voters had reversed their early support of the measure, opposing it by a margin of 54 percent to 34 percentage points, according to a survey by Ciruli and Associates of Denver.
A few weeks later, the initiative rallied, regaining some of its lost ground but still losing by a margin of 49 percent to 41 percentage points, according to a Ciruli and Associates poll.
Then, four days ago, a survey released by Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy showed voters supporting Amendment 31 by a margin of 46 percent to 44 percentage points.
Still, with support below 50 percent, pollster Floyd Ciruli said he doubted the measure would pass. "Clearly, it could win, but it would take almost complete Republican unanimity for it to happen," Mr. Ciruli said.
Mr. Unz said the instability of the polls are testament to the measure's inherent strength with voters. He noted that his campaign has been outspent 15-to-1, yet still has a chance to win.
He credited the resurgence in part to a new series of ads featuring former Democratic Gov. Dick Lamm urging voters to support the measure, despite a near-monolithic wall of opposition from state Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans say they worry about a clause in the measure that would allow parents to sue teachers who continue to instruct in a foreign language.
The irony is that Mr. Lamm helped create Colorado's bilingual-education system during his tenure as governor.
"I established bilingual education in Colorado 20 years ago, but now I'm voting against Amendment 31 to undo that mistake," Mr. Lamm said in his ads.
The Lamm ads have helped, said Mr. Ciruli, although probably not enough. "Let's face it, this is Dick Lamm telling Republicans to vote for it," he said. "The voters are getting a mixed message."
Amendment 31 may also be benefiting from a backlash against the opposition's advertising, which has been criticized by the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News even though both newspapers oppose the measure.
One ad said the Arizona measure had cost taxpayers $66 million. English Plus was later forced to retract that statement. Denver Post columnist Al Knight blasted the "No on 31" campaign for "setting records for deceit and deception."
"What do voters really know about Amendment 31? Not what its opponents' $3 million worth of scare-tactic ads are saying, that's for sure," said the News in an Oct. 22 editorial.
Win or lose, said Mr. Unz, his crusade against bilingual education isn't over.
"Regardless of the results in Colorado, the tide is running overwhelmingly in our favor," he said.

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