Associated Press

Friday, October 30, 1998

Tuchman, Eastin Debate Bilingual Education, Arts

LOS ANGELES -- The candidates for the state's top education post sparred over bilingual education and arts in the classroom during a radio debate Thursday.

Gloria Matta Tuchman, who is running for superintendent of public instruction against incumbent Delaine Eastin, accused her opponent of dragging her feet in implementing Proposition 227, the anti-bilingual education measure passed by voters in June.

The initiative, which passed with 61 percent of the vote, ordered children who don't speak English to be placed in a one-year English immersion program. Ms. Tuchman co-sponsored the measure with Silicon Valley millionaire Ron Unz.

Ms. Tuchman, a first-grade teacher, said the law does not smother cultural identities.

``I grew up in a bilingual household,'' Ms. Tuchman said. ``I'm proud to be bilingual. My father said 'The Gringos did us a favor' by teaching us in English. That's why we are successful.''

Ms. Eastin seemed doubtful goals of the proposition can ever be met.

``No country in the world teaches their language in a year,'' she said. ``We really don't know how we can do it.''

Ms. Tuchman also said her opponent was among the ``educrats and bureaucrats'' to blame for California's low ranking among state public education systems.

``I have a strong record,'' said Ms. Eastin, who is seeking a second term. ``That's why every major education group is backing me.''

Ms. Eastin drew the first applause of the hour-long debate after she blasted her opponent's statement that arts education should be limited to after-school programs.

``Arts promote literacy,'' Ms. Eastin said. ``About 20 percent of the jobs out there, from writing software to the entertainment industry, need people that know something about the arts.''

The state's education chief, elected to a four-year term, oversees the almost $40 billion budget for California's education system, which has 5.7 million students.

The superintendent is responsible for the department's executive and administrative functions. In addition, the superintendent is an ex officio member of the California State University Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents of the University of California.