Orange County Register

Friday, March 13, 1998

History of State's Bilingual Effort

The bilingual education battle in California began in 1976, when the state Assembly enacted the Bilingual-Bicultural Act. The law required academic instruction for non-English-speaking students in their primary language. In 1986, the Legislature enacted a "sunset" provision to end the act. But the state Board of Education determined that it was legally obligated to enforce the law. Orange County has the only school districts that received waivers.

  • FEBRUARY 1996: State Board of Education approves 22-month bilingual waiver for Westminster School District.
  • JANUARY 1997: Magnolia School District receives temporary waiver. Savanna School District receives temporary waiver shortly thereafter. Orange Unified School District petitions for waiver.
  • MAY 1997: Santa Ana teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz place an initiative on the 1998 ballot that would dismantle the state's bilingual-education law.
  • JULY 1997: Hispanic coalition files lawsuit, hoping to block Orange's bilingual waiver.
  • JANUARY 1998: Westminster is first district in the state to receive a permanent bilingual waiver. The state board reserves the right to revoke the permanent waiver if the district fails to report test scores and assessment of students in English-immersion program.
  • MARCH 7, 1998: Court rules state's mandate for bilingual programs outdated and potentially eliminates waiver process for school districts wanting English-only instruction.

State Ends Bilingual Mandate
Change May Not Be Imminent in O.C. Schools