Orange County Register

Saturday, September 12, 1998

State Board Grants Gates' Request for Charter Status
EDUCATION: The vote helps secure the Lake Forest school's dual-language immersion program.
By JOHN GITTELSOHN, The Orange County Register

The state Board of Education voted unanimously Friday for Gates Elementary in Lake Forest to become Orange County's newest charter school, bolstering a plan to save Gates' Spanish-English program, which had been outlawed by Proposition 227.

"That's great news," said Gates principal Mary Jacks. "Now we have two options."

The decision comes a week after state Superintendent Delaine Eastin granted Gates' application to become an alternative academy to preserve the school's dual-language immersion program, in which students spend up to 90 percent of the day learning in Spanish.

In June, 61 percent of California voters approved Prop. 227, which requires almost all instruction to be in English. Charter schools are exempt from the state Education Code, which includes Prop. 227.

Charter school grants last five years. The alternative waiver lasts two years. The waiver was criticized by Santa Ana teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman, who co-chaired the Yes-on-227 campaign and is challenging Eastin in the state superintendent's race, as an effort to circumvent the law.

"We're exploring all options to keep our program going uninterrupted and to stay within the law," Jacks said.

Gates, Las Palmas Elementary, a dual-immersion program in San Clemente, and 14 other schools also have asked the state board for blanket waivers from Prop. 227. The board postponed action on those requests Friday, while awaiting appeal of an Alameda County Superior Court judge's order to review them.

Orange County's two other charter schools are Santiago Intermediate in Orange and the Community Home Education Program run by the Orange County Department of Education.