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
"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
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
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.