Los Angeles Times
Saturday, January 17, 1998
State PTA Joins Opposition to 'English for the Children'
Education: Group's leadership attacks June ballot measure that
would end most bilingual classes.
By NICK ANDERSON, Times Staff Writer
The state PTA on Friday joined a growing list of education groups opposed
to a proposition on California's June ballot that seeks to end most bilingual
teaching in public schools.
PTA leaders, meeting in San Diego, attacked
the "English for the Children" initiative for forcing children
who aren't fluent in the language to take English-only classes "regardless
of their individual needs."
But the leadership of the 1-million-member
organization did not endorse the status quo.
"We recognize that the reform of bilingual
education is necessary," PTA president Rosaline Turnbull said in a
prepared statement. "PTA will continue to support the efforts of legislators
trying to improve education for English-language learners."
The initiative, sponsored by Silicon Valley
businessman Ron K. Unz and Orange County schoolteacher Gloria Matta Tuchman,
has drawn national attention because California has 1.4 million students
in its public schools who are not proficient in English--more than any
Critics of the proposition, which has not
yet received a ballot number, seized on the PTA announcement as the latest
in a series of opposition statements by influential education groups. Other
opponents include the California Teachers Assn., the California Federation
of Teachers, the California School Boards Assn. and the Assn. of California
"It's terrific," said Kelly Hayes-Raitt,
spokeswoman for the No on Unz campaign. "The PTA is right on target.
The Unz initiative removes parents' ability to choose what kind of education
is best for kids on a local level."
Unz said he was not surprised.
"It's one of these large establishment
state organizations that generally goes along with these other large establishment
state organizations that have previously come out against our initiative,"
Unz said. "I think that the overwhelming majority of parents and teachers
in California support what we're doing."
Proponents of bilingual education say it
is the best way to help many students stay afloat as they learn English.
Critics say it holds them back.
More than half of all school districts with
limited-English students do not offer them formal instruction in their
native language, in part because of a shortage of qualified bilingual teachers.
Legislative efforts to overhaul state bilingual
education rules have foundered in recent years. The PTA has endorsed a
bill by state Sen. Dede Alpert (D-Coronado) that would give local educators
more flexibility to choose their own teaching method.