San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday, August 18, 1998

Bilingual Programs Remain in S.J. for Now
Prop. 227, federal court order conflict
By LORI ARATANI, Mercury News Staff Writer

San Jose Unified School District can continue to teach Spanish-speaking students in their native language, at least temporarily, despite the passage of a measure that bans most bilingual education programs in California, a federal judge has ruled.

The order issued last week by U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte also means that River Glen, the district's nationally recognized Spanish dual immersion program, can continue to operate without radically altering its curriculum. But the district will have to change some of the programs it offers to non-English-speaking students because they are not covered in the federal court order and are thus subject to state law.

Proposition 227, approved by 61 percent of the voters in June, abolishes most bilingual education programs in the state and requires districts to teach all students in English beginning this fall. But San Jose Unified is under a federal court order that requires it to desegregate its schools and offer native language instruction to Spanish-speaking students.

Because the measure appears to conflict with the district's obligation under a federal court order, shortly after its passage, lawyers for the district appealed for guidance from the judge, who oversees the desegregation suit.

The judge's order will be in effect until Nov. 13 while the district and plaintiffs in the desegregation lawsuit sort out the details of how to comply with both mandates.

``I'm glad the judge has given us a little bit of time to try to work out conflicts between the court order and Proposition 227,'' Superintendent Linda Murray said. ``There are some major issues that need to be worked out so that we can comply with the spirit and intent of both the court order and 227.''

District officials were also concerned about how the passage of Proposition 227 would affect the Spanish language immersion program it offers at River Glen School. The goal of the award-winning program is for students to become fluent in two languages -- Spanish and English. But because non-English-speaking students weren't being taught predominantly in English, many parents feared the program would have to be altered to comply with the new state law.

``This has been real difficult for us because we want to comply with Proposition 227 and we want to comply with the court order,'' school board President Rich Garcia said. ``This district has to find out where we're headed and has to find out what will be required in terms of bilingual education.''

The court order does not address the educational needs of other non-English-speaking students, so the district plans to revamp programs offered to Vietnamese- and Portuguese-speaking students, Murray said. Those students will now receive the majority of their instruction in English as required by the provisions of Proposition 227.