Los Angeles Times
Friday, October 23, 1998
Hundreds Wait for Bilingual Education
Prop. 227: Requests often fall short of the number needed to
form a class. Students are taught in English with support in their native
By LOUIS SAHAGUN, NICK ANDERSON, Times Staff Writers
Hundreds of students whose parents have petitioned for bilingual education
in the Los Angeles school system are in limbo while principals try to arrange
The problem is that dozens of schools have
received just a handful of requests for bilingual education in the wake
of Proposition 227--not enough to form even one class.
Data released this week by the Los Angeles
Unified School District show that 11,809 requests have been filed for exemptions
from English immersion. The district says
it has no evidence that any have been turned down.
But a Times analysis of the data and interviews
with principals reveals the district is unable to immediately accommodate
At least 68 schools received 1 to 20 waiver
requests. Under the law, schools are required to offer bilingual classes
when at least 20 students in a given grade are granted so-called waivers
from English-intensive classes.
"If I don't get 20 waiver requests,
the best I can offer is Model B," said Normandie Avenue Elementary
Principal Barbara Wright, where 15 parents have filed waiver applications.
Wright was referring to one type of class
the district has created to comply with the anti-bilingual education proposition.
Model B students are taught "primarily" in English but receive
"support" in their native languages from bilingual teachers.
And what to do when just one student wants
bilingual education? At least 10 schools faced that dilemma. In one case,
an elementary school student has been placed in an English-immersion class
until officials can determine if another school can take the child.
But another campus was more accommodating.
At Norwood Street Elementary, a third-grade
girl was the child whose parents sought a waiver. She is being taught mostly
in Spanish in a class shared by 16 English immersion students.
"The district says we must comply with
a parent's request--we've done that," said Norma Diaz, Norwood's bilingual
education coordinator. "These parents felt their child would better
understand and be more successful in her primary language than she would
have been in English language instruction. We respect that."
The data also showed that many schools in
the Los Angeles area that once had large bilingual programs are in for
significant change in the wake of the proposition.
Last school year, there were at least 286
campuses in the district with 100 or more students in bilingual programs.
This year, the preliminary data show, there were just 43 schools that received
100 or more requests for bilingual education.
In more than half of the campuses that previously
had 100 students in bilingual education, not one petition for bilingual
education had been received as of mid-October.
One such school was Canoga Park Elementary.
In 1997-98 there were 555 students in that school in bilingual classes.
This year the school has received no petitions for bilingual education.
Forrest Ross, a district official who oversees
implementation of Proposition 227, was principal at the school until recently.
When asked why there appears to be little momentum for bilingual education
at his former school, Ross suggested that many parents are still weighing
Indeed, district Supt. Ruben Zacarias said
he did not view the initial data as a repudiation of bilingual education.
Instead, he said parents have grown tired of the controversy and are simply
searching for a middle road.
"I can't speak for why parents chose
one option versus another," Zacarias said. "But my intent in
the process was to give parents clear options."
The most popular option so far has been Model
"I believe that many parents believe
they are getting the best of both worlds in Model B," said Liliam
Castillo, deputy superintendent of instruction and curriculum. "These
are parents who believe this is a new way of teaching and want to try it
out, give it a shot."
In February, the district will begin shifting
curriculum and resources, adjusting budgets and moving staff to where students
will ultimately settle. Officials have already already begun talks with
textbook publishers about swapping or repurchasing about $5-million worth
of Spanish-language materials that became superfluous in the aftermath
of Proposition 227.
Finally, the data released this week showed
the enduring popularity of a specialized form of bilingual education known
as "dual immersion," in which English speakers typically are
taught Spanish and Spanish speakers learn English.
In addition to the other waiver requests,
there were 784 petitions for students to continue in dual immersion classes
in at least 11 schools.