Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, February 10, 1998
Bilingual Classes Get Support in Poll
Education: Survey of Latino parents reports that 68% favor the
programs. But 43% of respondents also approve of a ballot measure to outlaw
By CARLA RIVERA, Times Staff Writer
Most Latino parents believe bilingual programs are good for their children
and give generally high marks to the overall quality of education in the
Los Angeles Unified School District, according to a new poll commissioned
by the newspaper La Opinion and television station KVEA Channel 52.
Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said
they favored bilingual education and 26% opposed it. Of those parents with
children in bilingual programs, 88% said such education benefited their
children, while only 10% said they thought such programs were bad.
But the survey, released Monday, yielded
somewhat mixed views on a June ballot measure that seeks to dismantle California's
system of bilingual education. While 49% of respondents said they would
oppose the measure, 43% said they would favor it.
Pollster Sergio Bendixen said the responses
tended to show that while most Latino parents support bilingual programs
in the abstract, they remain confused about the ballot measure.
Indeed, when the initiative was described
to respondents, they were highly supportive of one component that would
allow non-English-speaking children to attend a short-term intensive English
"There is no rule saying you can't be
both for bilingual education and for an immersion course," Bendixen
said. "There may be some confusion now on the part of parents about
what the measure would do. I think once the campaigns for and against start
. . . you will see less divided opinion."
The poll surveyed 503 Latino adults who have
children attending Los Angeles district schools. The margin of error for
the entire sample was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Two hundred of the respondents had children
who attended bilingual programs. The margin of error for this group was
plus or minus 7 percentage points. Sixty-five percent of parents chose
to be surveyed in Spanish.
The anti-bilingual measure, sponsored by
Silicon Valley businessman Ron Unz and Orange County teacher Gloria Matta
Tuchman, would require that virtually all classroom instruction be conducted
Proponents argue that the current bilingual
system is ineffective and that children are not learning English.
Alice Callaghan, executive director of Las
Familias del Pueblo community center and an Unz supporter, questioned the
methodology of the survey and the impartiality of the survey takers.
"The Spanish-language media have been
hostile to the initiative from the day it was introduced," she said.
"They have a lot at stake ensuring that immigrants continue to read
and write Spanish. There is nothing bilingual about the system in Los Angeles.
The district has monolingual programs and I'd be surprised if you sat down
and explained to people what was actually happening here that you'd get
the responses that they did."
Callaghan cited other public opinion polls,
including one conducted by the Los Angeles Times in October that showed
broad support for the Unz initiative. In the Times poll, Latino voters
statewide supported the initiative by an 84% to 16% margin.
Rudy Bernal, a Los Angeles district specialist
in bilingual education, agreed that La Opinion's survey results tended
to confirm the opinion of many bilingual specialists that many parents
are confused about the Unz measure and what bilingual education means.
"Parents at large don't understand that
you don't acquire proficiency in academic English, the English they need
to compete at high schools, universities and in the job market, in just
a year," Bernal said. "We have to do a better job of educating
parents about what bilingual education means."
Among other major poll findings:
* Seventy-six percent of parents polled said the quality of education their
children receive is excellent or good. Teachers and principals also received
* A significant portion of Latino parents--41%--are concerned about school
security and believe neighborhoods in which schools are located are dangerous
* Many parents in the survey--54%--did not know who Supt. Ruben Zacarias
was, and of those who did, 30% believed he has not kept his promise of
substantially increasing the number of text books in classrooms.
Brad Sales, a spokesman for the superintendent,
said it was not surprising that many parents did not recognize Zacarias'
name because he has been on the job for only seven months. And Sales said
that nonrecognition has probably contributed to perceptions on the textbook
Sales said that the district has substantially
increased its budget for purchasing books and is well on its way to ensuring
that by the end of this school year, each student has the books that he
or she needs.