Los Angeles Times
Friday, May 8, 1998
CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / PROPOSITION 227
Ads Heat Up Fight on Bilingual Ban
Opponents plan campaign on Spanish-language TV while supporters
prepare radio spots.
By NICK ANDERSON, Times Staff Writer
California's shootout over bilingual education is moving onto the airwaves,
with opponents of Proposition 227 attacking the June 2 ballot measure in
television advertisements as an unwanted government mandate and supporters
saying in radio ads that it would put an end to a failed teaching system.
Until now, debate
over the initiative, which would dismantle most bilingual teaching programs
in the state's public schools, has taken place almost entirely in the news
media and free public forums. The initiative has soared to high standing
among voters in public opinion polls, and has been unchallenged by attack
ads on television.
But the initiative's
free ride may be over.
Richie Ross of Citizens for an Educated America said Thursday that the
first anti-Proposition 227 advertisements will air today statewide on the
Spanish-language television network Univision.
The script of
a 30-second ad made public by the measure's opponents says, in Spanish,
that the initiative "imposes a government mandate on every school
district in the state."
to defeat Proposition 227 and let parents and teachers decide what is best
for us," the script continues.
by noting that President Clinton has announced his opposition to the initiative.
Ross said the
Spanish-language ad will be followed soon by two English-language television
ads, one 30 seconds long and one 10 seconds long, which attack a provision
of the initiative that would earmark $50 million a year for adult English
literacy programs. He released the scripts of those ads but declined to
say when or where they would air.
Asked why the
ad campaign was opening in the Spanish media, Ross said, "It's just
group reported $530,000 in its treasury in March, but that would not be
enough for prolonged, extensive television advertising on English-language
stations. The campaign declined to reveal how much it plans to spend on
the Proposition 227 campaign, English for the Children, announced that
it would begin airing two radio advertisements early next week.
Ron K. Unz,
the millionaire Silicon Valley businessman who authored the initiative,
said the 60-second ads will be broadcast in Spanish and English and feature
two Latino spokesmen. One, he said, is Henry Gradillas, a former principal
in the Los Angeles Unified School District who worked with famous math
teacher Jaime Escalante to oppose bilingual education at Garfield High
The other is
a parent named Lenin Lopez, who participated in a 1996 boycott of bilingual
education classes at the Ninth Street Elementary School in downtown Los
In a script
released by Unz, Lopez says that he came to the United States from Mexico
to find opportunity and a good education for his children.
discovered the schools were teaching my children only in Spanish,"
Lopez says. "Without English, my children will not have a good future
in this country. I asked the schools to teach more English, but they said
no. . . . That's why I believe in Proposition 227, which will teach English
to all Latino children from Day 1."
to say where the ads will air but said he expects they will start by Tuesday.
He said he has spent more than $600,000 of his own money so far on the
campaign, but that he hopes to hold to a modest budget for a statewide
The ads unveiled
Thursday reveal that both campaigns are angling heavily for Latino support,
even though pollsters expect that Latino voters will make up only 10% of
the June 2 electorate. A major reason is that the initiative's impact would
be felt most heavily by Latino schoolchildren. Four out of five of the
state's 1.4 million students with limited English skills speak Spanish
as their first language.
initiative would undercut bilingual education, fewer than one-third of
all limited-English students receive formal instruction in their native
languages. The rest are taught entirely or mostly in English.
would end native language instruction, with limited exceptions. In its
place it prescribes about one year of special instruction in English, followed
by mainstream classes. It also calls for spending $50 million a year for
10 years on programs to teach English to adults who pledge, in turn, to
teach English to children.
A Los Angeles
Times poll last month showed that 63% of likely voters support the initiative.
Latino voters, the poll found, also support it, but by a slimmer margin.
director of the Field poll, which showed similar results, said the Proposition
227 opponents' pitch to Latino voters may be an effort to "rally its
home constituency, or the constituency that's most affected by the ballot
initiative, in hopes of rousing their passions and spreading the word."