Orange County Register

Wednesday, July 15, 1998

District May Sue to Save Program
EDUCATION: Saddleback board agrees Prop. 227 litigation is a possibility.
By RACHANEE SRISAVASDI, The Orange County Register

MISSION VIEJO Saddleback Valley Unified School District officials Tuesday approved initiating litigation against the state Board of Education to save a Lake Forest school's Spanish immersion program from elimination under Proposition 227.

The district hopes taking the board to court will protect the program at Gates Elementary School, in which 330 students have volunteered to learn Spanish and English simultaneously, with the emphasis initially on Spanish. Last month, the state board said it lacks authority to grant waivers for such programs. The district had hoped for a waiver.

Prop. 227 says almost all school instruction should be in English.

Saddleback Valley district officials said they would sue only as a last-ditch alternative.

At Tuesday's meeting, some district officials voiced support for taking the agency to court.

"It's an issue of local control," said board member Marcia Birch. "This district has invested a lot of time, energy and funding into the program."

Saddleback's lawsuit would be the first to challenge the state board's decision to deny general waivers on Prop. 227, said Gregory McGinity, a spokesman for the state Board of Education.

Saddleback board member Debbie Hughes voted against any litigation, saying the district's concerns may be addressed by the outcome of class-action lawsuits filed against Prop. 227.

Officials also hope to gain charter status for Gates' program, which would make it exempt from Prop. 227.