Associated Press

Friday, July 31, 1998

Court Sustains Calif. Bilingual Ban
By AMANDA COVARRUBIAS, Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A federal appeals court declined Friday to block Proposition 227, the initiative that essentially ends bilingual education in California.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied, without comment, a request by bilingual-education advocates for an injunction that would have prevented the measure from taking legal effect Monday. Implementation is scheduled in the school term that starts in September.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Lourdes Baird refused to block the nation's second-largest school district from proceeding with a new teaching plan aimed at complying with Proposition 227.

The ruling clears the way for the Los Angeles Unified School District to start a program Monday aimed at educating its 312,000 students with limited English proficiency without the benefit of teaching them in their native languages.

Proposition 227, which was approved by voters in June, becomes law Sunday.

``There's no question it will cause a considerable amount of disruption,'' said Baird, whose sister is a bilingual education teacher in the district. ``But as far as the magnitude of the change, the methodology is basically going to be the same.''

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the Los Angeles case, had argued that the new plan would harm children's education because it was put together too hastily and lacked a fully developed curriculum, adequate teacher training or proper materials.

After Friday's ruling, MALDEF officials urged parents to demand a high-quality education for their children and to seek waivers if they believe the program is inadequate. Parents and students can seek a waiver, with the approval of their teachers and schools, allowing them to remain in bilingual classes.

``We're urging parents and teachers to put the school district under a magnifying glass and be sure every child is provided the appropriate education, trained teachers, full curriculum and materials that they need,'' said MALDEF attorney Thomas Saenz.

But Sherry Annis, a spokeswoman for Yes on 227, said many waivers would hinder the district's transition through the new state law.

``Any sort of circumventing of the law is absurd,'' Annis said. ``The waiver process is to be used in limited circumstances based on the child's individual needs.

``Any parent who seeks a waiver will certainly need to show that the method that they're asking for will benefit the child educationally.''

MALDEF and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the school district's limited-English-speaking students. The organizations had sought a temporary restraining order that would have barred school officials from putting the new program into place.

The organizations claimed in their lawsuit that the program adopted by the school board to comply with Proposition 227 violated federal law by failing to meet students' educational needs.

On Tuesday, the school board agreed to begin implementing the program to comply with Proposition 227 at 50 year-round elementary schools that open Monday.

The initiative, approved by 61 percent of 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 some educational experts, qualifying it as a ``valid educational theory.''

In seeking an injunction from the appeals court, opponents of the measure said school administrators throughout the state have warned that they lack textbooks, trained teachers and programs to implement Proposition 227 in September.

Their request was denied by Chief Judge Procter Hug and Judge Alex Kozinski.