Los Angeles Times
Thursday, July 2, 1998
Schools Told to Obey Prop. 227 by This Fall
Education: State board backs end to bilingual classes in 1998-99
year. Foes hope lawsuit blocks initiative.
By NICK ANDERSON, AMY
PYLE, Times Staff Writers
SACRAMENTO--Turning up the pressure on schools to dismantle their bilingual
education programs, the State Board of Education declared Wednesday that
a sweeping initiative approved by voters last month should take effect
during the 1998-99 school year on all campuses statewide.
The 7-1 board vote rebuffed the arguments
of some education groups and school districts, including Los Angeles Unified,
that the fine print in Proposition 227 allowed many schools--those operating
year-round--to wait until July 1999 before switching to strictly English
The board vote leaves foes of the initiative
pinning their hopes on a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco
seeking to have the proposition invalidated. A hearing on the suit is scheduled
The initiative, enacted June 2 by a resounding
61%-39% margin of California voters, calls for a radical overhaul of how
schools teach hundreds of thousands of students with limited English skills.
In place of bilingual education--which most
often in California has meant instruction in Spanish and English--it would
put such students in English "immersion" programs for about a
year before shifting them into "mainstream" classes. It allows
exceptions under limited circumstances when parents request waivers for
their children. And it requires the changes to take place for "all
school terms" beginning more than 60 days after the election--that
is, after early August.
The debate before the state board was over
how to define a school term.
Many schools in Los Angeles, Santa Ana and other urban areas operate on
year-round calendars that began Wednesday, during the 60-day grace period
allowed by the initiative. Those districts also have some of the state's
heaviest concentration of limited-English students and bilingual classes.
And their officials say they need as much time as possible to buy new textbooks,
overhaul lesson plans, retrain teachers, notify parents and do all the
other tasks entailed in a 180-degree switch in curriculum.
Along those lines, some educators argued
that the next "school term," for purposes of the initiative,
should mean the year that will begin July 1, 1999.
The Assn. of California School Administrators
and the California Federation of Teachers were among the groups backing
the interpretation that would push the clock back a year.
"The limitations of time in which to
implement [the changes] are unprecedented in the district's history,"
Carmen Schroeder, an associate superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified
School District, wrote in a memorandum last month. Merely designing new
programs before September, she wrote, "would be an insurmountable
But the initiative's supporters contended
that voters meant for it to be in force for the 1998-99 school year, in
most cases by September. Alice Callaghan, who organized a boycott of bilingual
education in a downtown Los Angeles school in 1996--the event that inspired
the initiative--said education groups arguing otherwise "remain clueless.
They still don't believe this has happened to them."
The state board, which is meeting weekly
this summer to craft emergency rules and guidelines to clarify ambiguous
points in the initiative, came down on the side of the initiative proponents
on this issue. It issued a proclamation that the initiative would take
effect for every school "semester or equivalent" that begins
after Aug. 2.
That means that some year-round Los Angeles
schools, which began new semesters Wednesday, will not have to comply with
the initiative for the length of the semester, about 90 school days. But
schools beginning new terms at the traditional time, in September, will
have to comply immediately.
"This is a very prudent way to move
forward," said board President Yvonne W. Larsen. Another board member,
Janet Nicholas, called the vote a "sensitive and careful way to implement
the intent of Proposition 227."
Robert L. Trigg, the lone dissenter, said
he wanted to give schools "as much time as we can."
A spokesman for Los Angeles Unified, Brad
Sales, called Wednesday's decision "unfortunate." About 312,000
of the district's 681,000 students are classified as limited English proficient.
Of those, two out of five were in bilingual classes in the last year.
Sales said the district is "aggressively
planning" to implement the new law but also hopes the federal court
will block it. The district, the second largest in the nation, has filed
a "friend of the court" brief on the side of plaintiffs in the