Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, December 2, 1997
Teachers Union Vote Upholds Bilingual Education Support
By DOUG SMITH, Times Education Writer
Members of the Los Angeles teachers union have narrowly voted to uphold
the group's support of bilingual education.
In balloting counted Monday, 52.2% of the
teachers who voted opposed a referendum that would have thrown the support
of United Teachers-Los Angeles to the statewide initiative by businessman
Ron Unz, which would end bilingual education. The votes were cast last
UTLA president Day Higuchi said he was pleased
that the union's policy would not change after being whipsawed in four
previous referendums going back to the late 1980s.
But he said it is unfortunate that the union
leadership has been shackled by prior votes on bilingual education.
"Once the policy has been set by membership,
the delegates can't not follow it," Higuchi said. "It is difficult
to be flexible."
Polling has shown that teachers are far more
concerned about class size and salaries than they are about bilingual education,
What he described as the wedge issue of bilingual
education keeps coming up for union votes because of archaic rules requiring
only 500 signatures among the roughly 32,000 union members to qualify a
referendum, Higuchi said.
This first happened in an advisory referendum
about a decade ago, in which teachers voted to oppose bilingual education,
Higuchi said. A later mail-in ballot briefly established a policy in opposition
to bilingual education, but was overturned only months later in a second
mail-in ballot, Higuchi said.
Most recently, the teachers voted down a
measure that would have made it union policy to oppose special training
for teachers of students who do not speak English as their primary language.
Higuchi said he supports bilingual education,
but believes it has been guided for too long by beliefs, rather than research.