Associated Press

Tuesday, August 25, 1998

Parents Lobby To Keep Bilingual Ed

ALISO VIEJO, Calif.-- Parents at two Orange County schools begged state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin to save their bilingual programs from Proposition 227.

Parents and teachers on Monday praised the dual-language immersion programs at Las Palmas Elementary School in San Clemente and Gates Elementary School in Lake Forest.

"How could you break our hearts and our children's hearts?" asked Tonya Iribane, a mother of three Gates students.

About 400 people gathered at Wood Canyon Elementary School here to defend the programs.

Ms. Eastin indicated she will grant the request before school starts on Sept. 10.

"Although other districts have indicated their interest in going this route, these two are the first," she said.

Instruction at Gates and Las Palmas is 90 percent in Spanish in kindergarten and first grade, with more English time added each year.

Proposition 227 virtually bans bilingual education and requires "English immersion" for most of the state's 1.4 million students with limited English skills.

Parents can try to obtain waivers for their children, and Ms. Eastin can approve alternative programs for some schools.

California's 154 charter schools also are exempt, and the two elementary schools have applied to the state Board of Education for charter status.

"I want them to learn two languages," said Alberto Olivares, a native of Mexico and father of four Gates students. "It's better for the children. I can help them with their homework."

Dr. George Schiffman said the Gates program has helped his fourth-grade daughter learn Spanish.

"My daughter dreams in Spanish even though we speak no Spanish at home," he said.

Proposition 227 backers oppose exempting the two elementary schools.

"It's circumventing what the law intends," said Gloria Matta Tuchman, a Santa Ana teacher who co-authored the measure and is running against Eastin for state superintendent of public education.