Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, July 22, 1998
Prop. 227's 'Bumpy Ride'
Schools: L.A. district prepares to approve emergency plan for
dismantling bilingual education.
By LOUIS SAHAGUN, Times Staff Writer
Amid predictions of chaos throughout the 661-campus Los Angeles Unified
School District, the Board of Education indicated Tuesday that it will
adopt a hastily prepared plan for dismantling bilingual programs starting
Los Angeles district officials estimated
that it could cost an additional $40 million over the next four years to
implement the proposal. "It's not going to be easy," said district
Supt. Ruben Zacarias, who drafted the proposal. "It's going to be
a bumpy ride for the first year.
"But we have 310,000 reasons to make
this thing work," he continued, referring to the number of district
students with limited English skills.
Among other options, his plan offers parents
a choice of enrolling students in English-intensive classrooms but allowing
them extra help in their native languages.
Reflecting the high level of interest in
the topic, more than 200 students, parents and teachers attended Tuesday's
school board meeting. Most were confused, angry, or unconvinced by what
Victoria Castro, president of the seven-member
school board, predicted that the board would adopt Zacarias' proposal at
its next scheduled meeting July 28 without seeking significant changes.
But she warned of serious problems ahead
as a result of Proposition 227, the anti-bilingual education measure overwhelmingly
approved by voters last month. Nonetheless, Castro said, the district will
abide by the new law.
"There is no college or system to prepare
us for this," said Castro, who voted against the initiative. "Everyone
will have to go through the initial chaos together."
Still, with so much at stake and so little
time to get ready, district officials are forging ahead with implementation
across the 680,000-student district.
District officials plan to meet Thursday
with principals from 214 year-round schools with semesters beginning in
August. These schools are the first scheduled to have their bilingual education
programs replaced with new English immersion classes mandated by the initiative.
Within a week, parents districtwide will
be receiving formal letters providing information about their options under
One option would be to transfer a child into
an all-English class. A second would be for parents to request waivers
that would allow their children to remain in traditional bilingual programs.
Those options are allowed under the state initiative.
The other two options, which district officials
refer to as Model A and Model B, were tailored to meet Los Angeles' needs,
Zacarias said. The goal of both is to transfer limited-English students
to mainstream English-only classes within one year--provided that they
are deemed reasonably fluent in English.
Under Model A, students would be taught in
English. Classroom aides and fellow students working as tutors would be
available to help in the students' native languages.
Under Model B, students would receive instruction
almost entirely in English, but certified bilingual teachers, who have
more training than the helpers in Model A, would be in the classroom.
That bothered Alice Callaghan, a downtown
activist who was a key supporter of Proposition 227.
"This school board has arrogantly and
defiantly decided to circumvent the law and proceed to practice bilingual
education as it has been practiced here for 30 years," she said. "That
is not a decision it is free to make. The result will be lawsuits."
Carmen Schroeder, the district's assistant
superintendent of instruction, dismissed such predictions and insisted
that the new plan met the proposition's rules.
Deborah Young, a 30-year-old bilingual teacher
at Logan Street Elementary School, was among 30 teachers at the meeting
who wore yellow cloth gags in their mouths meant to symbolize how, she
said, "Proposition 227 gags teachers from teaching students using
methods that are proven to work."
"I start teaching Aug. 10," she
said. "That leaves no time to inform parents and get English immersion
materials, let alone define parameters of what our classrooms will look
Indeed, the first few weeks of implementation
could prove crucial and expensive. The main costs will be in retraining
teachers for English immersion instruction and acquiring new books and
other teaching materials, district officials said.
Zacarias requested $938,000 to cover start-up
costs for the first year and he expects nearly $39 million will be needed
over the next four years.