Los Angeles Times
Friday, January 9, 1998
Bilingual Ban Could Override Proposition 187
Primary: The English-only initiative vows education for 'all'
children, even those here illegally.
By ALLAN J. FAVISH
The June 1998 California ballot will contain a proposition that will
significantly reduce the extent of bilingual education in California public
schools. However, virtually unnoticed is that this "English for the
Children" proposition also will override Proposition 187's prohibition
on public elementary and secondary school education for children who are
illegally present in the United States.
The California Education Code section created
by Proposition 187 states: "No public elementary or secondary school
shall admit or permit the attendance of any child who is not a citizen
of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident
or a person who is otherwise authorized under federal law to be present
in the United States."
But the "English for the Children"
proposition will add a section to the education code to say: "Whereas
the government and the public schools of California have a moral obligation
and a constitutional duty to provide all of California's children, regardless
of their ethnicity or national origins, with the skills necessary to become
productive members of our society, and of these skills, literacy in the
English language is among the most important."
A subsection does not say "all of California's
children who are legally entitled to attend public elementary or secondary
school," but broadly says "all of California's children,"
which necessarily includes those who are here illegally.
The chief sponsor and author of "English
for the Children" is Ron Unz. When he ran against Pete Wilson in the
1994 Republican gubernatorial primary, he opposed Proposition 187. While
it is unclear whether the overriding of Proposition 187's ban on public
education for illegal aliens was deliberately intended by Unz, it is clear
that the day after "English for the Children" passes, you can
expect Proposition 187's opponents to be in court arguing that its key
provision has been overridden.
Many people support Proposition 187's ban
on publicly financed education for illegal immigrants and believe that
eventually it will be upheld by the courts. We also support the significant
reduction, if not the elimination of bilingual education and wish that
Unz had written his initiative without overriding any part of Proposition
187. I will vote against "English for the Children" because it
repeals the key portion of Proposition 187.
Corrective action is possible. As noted by
the California Supreme Court in 1975 in White vs. Davis, when courts interpret
a law enacted through the initiative process, the ballot pamphlet arguments
for the initiative are part of the "legislative history" that
guide their interpretation.
Therefore, the ballot pamphlet arguments
for "English for the Children" should expressly say that the
initiative is not intended to extend public education to illegal aliens
and the intent is to leave that area of law undisturbed.
I hope Unz can make "English for the
Children" something I can support.
Allan J. Favish Is an Attorney in Tarzana