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Teachers and parents beat back Oregon initiative targeting English language learners

WASHINGTON - October 03, 2008 -

In Oregon today, 64,000 students, who speak Spanish and other languages, are breathing a sigh of relief because of the efforts of teachers, parents and community leaders who worked together to defeat a ballot initiative that would have banned teachers from providing instruction to students in their own languages for more than two years.

"This victory shows what a difference it makes when teachers stand with hardworking families who dream of giving their kids a better life," said Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association. Eskelsen is one of the nation's most influential Hispanic education leaders. "Instead of punishing students because they speak different languages, we ought to help them make the most of their opportunities," said Eskelsen. 

Ballot Measure 58 was rejected by 54 percent of Oregon voters. Support from NEA helped parents and educators saturate the airways with radio and TV advertisements and strengthen grassroots efforts to reach out to voters.  More than 70 organizations, both local and national, provided crucial support to the effort.

The ballot measure was initiated by Bill Sizemore, a long-time promoter of anti-public education ballot initiatives who ran for governor in 1998. The measure was pushed on right-wing talk radio.

NEA's efforts to ensure English Language learners get a fair shake go beyond fighting bad ballot measures. NEA has developed a specific curriculum and pedagogy to help these students learn.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Cynthia Kain   202-822-7263