Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, May 6, 1998
Prop. 227 Critics Cite School Data to Make Case
By JEAN MERL, Times Staff Writer
Leaders of the uphill campaign against a state ballot measure to end
bilingual education seized on new public school data Tuesday to bolster
their arguments that the measure would hurt, not help, immigrant children
in learning English.
an Educated America cited state-compiled information from the Ninth Street
School near downtown as the group sought to muster opposition to Proposition
227 on the June 2 ballot. The campaign also took a swipe at a high-profile
supporter of the measure, Orange County first-grade teacher Gloria Matta
Both Matta Tuchman
and the Ninth Street School have provided powerful symbols for the ballot
initiative written by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz.
would abolish most programs in which children are taught academic subjects
in their native tongues for up to several years until they master English
well enough to hold their own in mainstream classrooms. It calls instead
for students to spend one school year in intensive English instruction,
known as immersion, then be transferred into a regular classroom.
who signed on to the pro-227 campaign as co-sponsor, has been using immersion
techniques with her students in the Santa Ana Unified District for years
and touting their success as a reason to vote for the initiative.
School has been praised by Unz as the inspiration for his initiative. Many
of its Spanish-speaking parents transferred their children from bilingual
classrooms to ones in which only English is spoken after a 1996 boycott
led by Episcopal priest and community activist Alice Callaghan.
At a news conference
Tuesday, opponents of Proposition 227 pointed to state data showing that
none of Matta Tuchman's students had become sufficiently proficient in
English during the past academic year to enable them to be moved into regular
And the group
noted that at the school, only two of the 74 students whose parents opted
for English-only classes were deemed English-proficient by the end of the
past academic year.
is not sufficient," said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, an English-as-a-second
language consultant for the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
The data came
from information each school district is required to provide annually to
the state Department of Education. It includes the percentage of students
with limited English skills at each school who, through testing, were reclassified
as English-proficient and were eligible to leave bilingual classes for
campaign, English for the Children, did not dispute the data but did take
issue with its significance.
Sheri Annis said the system for redesignating children is flawed. "Gloria's
kids can speak and read and write in English," Annis said.
a real cheap shot," said Callaghan of the No on 227 campaign's efforts
to make hay out of Ninth Street's redesignation track record with its English-only
language acquisition takes about three years," Callaghan said, but
added that the one year of intensive language instruction called for in
the ballot measure "is enough to give them the tools to go on from
there" and do well academically.
she believes the Ninth Street kindergartners and first-graders whose parents
pulled them from bilingual classes ultimately will do better than their
older counterparts who were taught in Spanish during their early school