Wednesday, November 5, 1997
Bilingual Education Suffers Blow
By MINERVA CANTO, Associated Press Writer
ORANGE, Calif. (AP) -In a move that could predict the future of bilingual
education in this diverse state, voters in the conservative Orange County
school district overwhelmingly approved the end of bilingual education.
The non-binding advisory vote Tuesday was
a way to let board members know what voters thought of the school board's
decision to have all students in kindergarten through third grade learn
in English for the current school year.
Eighty-six percent, or 14,354 of voters,
approved the action, while 14 percent, or 2,249 voters, disapproved.
The vote comes amid increasingly heated discussions
about the future of bilingual education in California and possibly across
the nation. Tuesday's vote was considered a gauge of public opinion on
the divisive issue, which is likely to be put to a statewide vote next
The board's move to replace bilingual education
in the 29,000 -student district with "English immersion" affected
about 1,400 students -most of them Hispanic -who were in the bilingual
program last year.
The district's "English immersion"
program has received state approval for one year, after which it must apply
for permission again. But the program's fate could also be decided by a
pending lawsuit against it that hasn't been set for trial yet.
Bilingual backers claimed the new program
puts non-English speaking students at a disadvantage. Activists tried to
woo Hispanic voters to the polls, but acknowledged the fact that Hispanics
traditionally have low turnouts.
With all precincts reporting, voters also
elected more conservative board members, increasing the majority to six
of seven seats. There had been four conservatives on the board.
"The strongest conservative school board
in California just got stronger," said Marty Jacobson, a former board
president who held onto his seat.
With four seats of the seven-member board
up for grabs, conservatives were worried they might lose their majority.
Instead, they increased it by holding onto a conservative incumbent and
adding new ones.
Jacobson, an accountant, won with 51 percent
of the vote, and challenger Gisela Meier, a writer, followed closely with
Conservative Linda Davis, a community volunteer,
edged incumbent Jim Fearns, a retired probation officer with 50.5 percent
of the vote to his 49.5 percent.
In the only seat not targeted by an incumbent,
land-use planner Terri Sargeant beat municipal manager William "Bill"
G. Vasquez with 53 percent to Vasquez's 47 percent.
Incumbent Rick Ledesma narrowly lost to bank
executive and consultant Kathy Ward, who led the crowded field with 43
percent. Ledesma followed with 40 percent; employment development technician
Bea Gonzales trailed with nearly 9 percent; and maintenance worker Robert
L. Douglas, and merchandising planner and educator J. Carolan Smyth, III,
each had 4 percent.
Nearly 20 percent of the 92,734 registered
voters turned out for the Orange Unified School District elections.