NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some California Schools Are Keeping Bilingual Education

November 13, 1998

Despite Proposition 227, which requires California public schools to teach all children "overwhelmingly" in English, some school districts are simply renaming bilingual classes "English immersion" and continuing their old policies. That's according to Ron Unz, the leader of the campaign against bilingual education, who says this is "utterly illegal" and school districts, teachers and administrators may be sued.

Observers say a major reason for inconsistency in implementing Prop. 227 is its waiver provision, which allows parents to keep their kids out of English immersion by signing a declaration that they have an educational need. However, "waivers are being granted for whole classes and schools," says one Prop. 227 supporter. Waiver rates vary widely by school district, a USA Today survey found.

  • At a school called Heliotrope, in Los Angeles, 99 percent of the 1,300 students are Latino, but only 23 parents have sought waivers to have their children taught mainly in Spanish.
  • But at another L.A. school, Park Avenue, only 70 of the 1,250 students are being taught in English.
  • Park Avenue principal Nora Armenta -- who says mastering Spanish first is best for kids -- says, referring to parents, "We swamped them with data, so they could make the best decision for their child."

San Francisco public schools are openly defying the law, claiming they are under a 24-year old court order to assist non-English- speaking students -- although it doesn't specifically require bilingual classes.

A second grade teacher at Heliotrope says students now talk to each other in English about 40 percent of the time, where last year they spoke almost exclusively in Spanish. "What surprised me the most is how much they want to speak English," he says. "They are determined to speak English, and they're very excited about the opportunity to learn English."

Source: Maria Puente and Carol Morello, "Bilingual Battle Still Rages in Classrooms," USA Today, November 13, 1998.


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