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Group focuses on bill to limit bilingual ed
Meetings to dissect pros, cons of measure set for fall ballot
It's a new academic year in Salem-Keizer School District, but it could be the year the meter runs out for the district's estimated 6,500 students with limited English skills who are taught in their native language part of the time.
The controversial ballot initiative, Measure 58, which goes before voters in the November election, would cut the amount of time English-language learners can be taught in a language other than English in Oregon public schools.
The measure has drawn ire from some and sparked praise from others.
To help voters make heads or tails of the spin, a citizen panel will meet for five days beginning Sunday at Chemeketa Eola Conference Center in Salem to dissect the pros and cons of Measure 58.
The meetings are open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.
The panel will listen to experts, supporters and opponents of Measure 58, and then issue a statement about their analysis during a public presentation at 4:45 p.m. Thursday on the steps of the state Capitol.
"The more people learn about the measure and the failure of the current system, the more willing they will be to support the reform," Bill Sizemore, the measure's author, said in a statement.
Sizemore will be at some of the meetings in support of the measure, organizers said.
Speaking out against the initiative will be the Portland-based Parents and Teachers Know Better Coalition.
"Measure 58 is not good for kids because not all children learn the same way," said Treasure Makley, the group's campaign manager. "It's a one-size-fits-all approach that takes away decisions from parents and teachers who know what's best for the student."
The citizen panel consists of 24 registered voters from across the state, including from Salem. It was put together by Healthy Democracy Oregon, a Portland-based nonpartisan, nonprofit group that pushes political reform.
"Nowadays, most of the information voters receive about politics comes from paid campaign advertising," said Elliot Shuford, the nonprofit's co-director. "There is very little opportunity for everyday citizens to engage in reasoned debate of ballot measures.
"The goal … is to enhance the quality of information available to voters and to encourage greater citizen participation in Oregon's initiative process."
tguerrero-huston@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6815