Bill to make English official language of Connecticut Fails

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Feb 22 14:38:32 UTC 2005

02/18/2005 Thomaston Express
Piscopo's quest for English language takes hit
KARSTEN STRAUSS , Special to The Express

THOMASTON - A hearing for Rep. John Piscopo's, R-76, bill to make English
the official language of Connecticut has been denied by the Government
Administration and Elections Committee.  Piscopo said he has introduced
the bill nine times before and has only received one hearing in the late
1990s, when the legislation came under fire and was not sent to the House
for a vote.

"I was hoping for a public hearing this year out of colleague courtesy,"
Piscopo said. "But it doesn't look like its going to happen." Piscopo said
that opposition to the bill comes from those who feel it is mean-spirited,
divisive and even racist - something that he strongly denies. Piscopo also
said there are those who wish to bar legislation that has economic
interests at stake.

"There's an entrenched bureaucracy in the state that makes a living off of
printing and education, and other agencies that are entrenched in
multilingual endeavors," he said. The bill, which according to Piscopo is
largely symbolic, would declare English as the state's official language.
As far as changes to the way the state or educational curriculum is run in
Connecticut, Piscopo said that driver's licenses, voting ballots and voter
registration documents would be printed only in English.

"We want to state that Connecticut is a state with English as the official
language so that everybody can assimilate and learn this universal
language of commerce and to get ahead faster," he said. Piscopo said that
bilingual education, once thought to benefit children raised to speak
foreign languages, is in fact holding those children back.

"You do not help a non-English speaking student by keeping them at least
three years in their native tongue," Piscopo said. "The best way we can
help someone that does not speak English that comes to this country and
this state is to teach them English as quickly as possible through English
immersion, or just English as a second language, not teach them in their
native tongue." Piscopo says he has backing from Hispanic mothers who
would like to see their children assimilate more completely into the
English-speaking curriculum.

"We need these kids to have an equal opportunity to go through the process
of transition from one culture, one language to another one," said
Torrington Board of Education member Edgar Trinidad, who disagrees
strongly with Piscopo's views on bilingual education. "I know many great
professionals who have been in bilingual education." "I don't know of what
world this gentleman is," Trinidad said of Piscopo.  "Maybe he doesn't
have kids in school. It's proven that bilingual education is going to help
the kid enjoy the concept of inclusion."

Trinidad said that some aspects of bilingual education need to be
addressed, but not eliminated. Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149, ranking member on
the Government Administration and Elections Committee said Piscopo's
proposed bill was not given a hearing because the commission's calendar
for this year was too full, not because of the merits of the bill or any
ideological opposition.

"It was just a matter of time and priorities, and this just wasn't the
year," Floren said. "Probably next year, when we have a little bit less on
our docket, we'll be able to get to it again." Piscopo said he will be
looking for an opportunity to submit the bill as an amendment in the House
of Representatives.

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