Associated Press

Saturday, July 25, 1998

Appeals Court Urged To Quash Proposition 227

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Supporters of bilingual education have asked a federal appeals court to block Proposition 227, the initiative requiring all students to be taught in English.

Organizations representing students in bilingual classes and their parents filed an appeal Thursday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging last week's decision by a federal judge to allow Proposition 227 to take effect this fall.

The initiative, approved by 61 percent of the voters June 2, requires as many as 1.4 million students who speak limited English to be placed in separate English-only classes for up to a year. Parents and students can seek a waiver, with the approval of their teachers and schools, allowing them to remain in bilingual classes.

A lawsuit filed the day after the measure passed argued that it violated a federal law requiring schools to take appropriate steps, using valid educational methods, to overcome language barriers. The suit also claimed discrimination based on national origin.

But U.S. District Judge Charles Legge ruled July 15 that federal law did not require bilingual education or prohibit so-called immersion classes as a way of teaching English. He said the Proposition 227 approach was widely used in other countries and was supported by educational experts, qualifying it as a ``valid educational theory.''

Opponents of the measure want the appeals court to block its enforcement while their appeal is pending. They say school administrators throughout the state have warned that they lack textbooks, trained teachers and programs to implement Proposition 227 in September.

``The state will force school districts to eliminate proven, successful programs in favor of an uncertain, experimental one,'' said Silvia Argueta, a lawyer with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

``Implementing a program as drastic and complicated as this (in the fall) will cause tremendous disruption,'' said attorney Christopher Ho of the Employment Law Center, part of San Francisco's legal aid program.

Proposition 227 author Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur, says he is confident the great majority of school districts will be able to put the measure in place on time.