Thursday, January 8, 1998
Proposal Would Undercut Bilingual-Ed Foes
In a move designed to blunt an anti-bilingual education measure on the June ballot, a San Jose lawmaker has drafted a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the state from dictating uniform methods of teaching.
The legislative measure by Democrat Assemblyman Mike Honda would guarantee "local control" over how schools decide what are the most effective teaching methods in any subject area.
Honda developed his proposal, dubbed the "School Board Bill of Rights," to counter a June primary ballot initiative pushed by Silicon Valley businessman Ron Unz. Unz's measure, which has received strong support in the polls, would largely replace bilingual education in California public schools with an "English immersion" program for limited English proficient students.
"No school board should be forced by a state bureaucracy to implement any untested, unproven, arbitrarily created teaching methodology," Honda said. Honda's amendment, ACA 28, is expected to be considered by the full Assembly today for a vote on whether it should be referred to committee for public hearing. To be placed on the June primary ballot, Honda's proposal ultimately would need two-thirds majority approval in both the Assembly and state Senate by Jan. 22.
Honda acknowledged he needed support from Republicans to get his proposal on the ballot, adding, "They can't say they support local control and then not allow this debate to occur."
Assembly GOP leader Bill Leonard of Upland said he had concerns about whether there has been adequate public notice about Honda's proposal. In addition, on the merits of the policy, he questioned whether it is too broad of a proposal.
"Does it cover the state's class-size reduction program?" Leonard said, citing one area of concern. "I haven't studied it in depth, but I don't think it works."
Sheri Annis, spokeswoman for the Unz initiative, criticized Honda's proposed constitutional amendment, saying, "This action was written for one reason and one reason only: to prevent the ultimate control of parents to choose the method of their child's education.
"Our initiative aims at parental choice, which Mike Honda seems to want to eliminate," she said.
Annis added that under the Unz initiative, each local school board decides whether to grant to parents a waiver to provisions in the initiative.
But Kevin Gordon of the California School Boards Association said his group, which opposes the Unz initiative, is supportive and is looking to be the major sponsor of Honda's legislation.
"The Unz initiative is so onerous on what it dictates to school districts," Gordon said. "This (Honda's proposal) seems to meet the objectives of Democrats and Republicans on the issue of local control."
A draft of Honda's proposal declares that each local school board "has the inherent authority to determine the most effective method of teaching its pupils."