Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, October 29, 1997

Union Opposes Bilingual Measure
Education: Statewide group attacks initiative that would dismantle such instruction. But backer says it will be popular among teachers.
By NICK ANDERSON, Times Staff Writer

California's largest teachers organization came out Tuesday against an initiative proposed by a Silicon Valley businessman and an Orange County schoolteacher to dismantle bilingual education.
     The announcement by the California Teachers Assn. was a significant counterpunch for opponents of the "English for the Children" initiative, who had been struggling in recent weeks.
     The proposed initiative, targeted for the June ballot, would require virtually all public school instruction to be conducted in English, although it would offer a year of special "English-immersion" lessons to students who are not fluent in the language.
     Now, such students are taught in a variety of ways, many in bilingual classes that use their native language, usually Spanish.
     "This initiative arbitrarily limits the access of some students to the curriculum by dictating a single method of language instruction," CTA President Lois Tinson said in a statement. "Students do not come in 'one size fits all' containers. They are individuals and they need instruction built around their individuality."
     The union's actions on education issues are watched closely because the organization can call on 270,000 members to help raise money and volunteer for campaigns.
     Initiative sponsor Ron K. Unz, a software entrepreneur and former Republican gubernatorial candidate, called the announcement "unfortunate."
     Unz, whose co-sponsor is Santa Ana elementary schoolteacher Gloria Matta Tuchman, denied that the initiative would mandate one instructional approach, noting that parents who object to English-only teaching could seek a waiver. Opponents, however, say such waivers would be difficult to obtain.
     Unz and Matta Tuchman have secured key endorsements of their own. In September, delegates to a Republican state convention endorsed the measure. Latino calculus teacher Jaime Escalante, made famous in the movie "Stand and Deliver," also has endorsed it.
     A recent Los Angeles Times poll found that the proposed initiative enjoys overwhelming support among the state's voters, including Latinos. Foes of the initiative say that the poll numbers will turn around.
     Unz said Tuesday that he has gathered 600,000 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. He needs 433,269 verified signatures. The deadline to turn them in is Dec. 1.
     Unz is bankrolling part of the signature gathering. Campaign records show he has also received $25,000 from each of two Florida businessmen, whom Unz said he met through conservative circles, and $48,000 from Fieldstead & Co., an Irvine philanthropy group associated with Christian conservative Howard F. Ahmanson Jr.