Sacramento Bee

Thursday, May 7, 1998

Big Ad Push by Prop. 227 Foes: Bilingual-Ed Allies To Raise Cost Issue
By PHIL GARCIA, Bee Deputy Capitol Bureau Chief

With less than a month before the vote, opponents of a June 2 ballot measure to all but end bilingual education are launching a television advertising campaign that attacks the measure as a "$50 million-a-year . . . new spending program" that won't benefit children.

The ads, two versions of a 30-second spot and a separate 10-second pitch to defeat Proposition 227, are expected to be aired in the last two weeks of the campaign, Richie Ross, campaign consultant to the opposition campaign, Citizens for an Educated America, told The Bee on Wednesday.

Those ads will be supplemented by a Spanish-language ad that is scheduled to begin airing statewide on Friday and that argues the measure won't allow parents and teachers to decide what is best for students.

Ross declined to say how much is being spent on the ads and exactly when the English-language ads would begin airing.

The main provision of Proposition 227 would mandate a statewide system of English-immersion instruction -- intended to last one year -- for the roughly 1.4 million California public school students identified as having limited English-speaking skills.

But the opposition campaign for weeks has blasted a provision in the measure that calls for a $50 million-a-year expenditure for the next 10 years to provide free or subsidized adult English programs for parents and others who "pledge" to tutor students with limited English skills.

"This fight is about that $50 million being spent that way," Ross said. Proposition 227, sponsored by Silicon Valley software entrepreneur Ron Unz, has consistently received strong support in the polls -- 71 percent in the last Field Poll. An Unz spokeswoman suggested Wednesday the opponents' ads wouldn't reverse voter sentiment.

"It sounds like they're trying to appeal to the conservative voter without disclosing all the information about the savings that will go along with the end of the current (bilingual education) program," said Unz' spokeswoman, Sheri Annis.

For its part, the Unz campaign at this point is planning to run radio ads statewide in English and Spanish, Annis said.

That the opposition campaign even has money on hand to buy television time is somewhat surprising in that the most recent campaign disclosure statements showed it had roughly $530,000 cash on hand -- an amount that wouldn't sustain a large television buy.

Throughout the campaign thus far, Unz has highlighted support he has received from Latinos in doing away with existing bilingual education programs that he argues harm Latino immigrant students.

The opponents English-language ad counters with a young, Anglo girl who peers into the camera with an alarmed look and declares, "The people behind Proposition 227 don't tell you the state already ended mandatory bilingual education. And they don't tell you about the money."

An adult male voice then intones, "Proposition 227 appropriates $50 million a year for a new spending program." The girl adds, "And it won't go to our schools." The male voice continues, "Proposition 227 funds teaching non-English speaking adults who will tutor kids English."

The ad ends with the girl saying, "Kids won't learn English that way" and with the male voice closing with, "President Clinton says 'No' on 227."

The first line in the ad refers to the state Board of Education's unanimous decision last month to adopt a new bilingual education policy that allows local school districts to choose how to educate students with limited English skills.

In citing Clinton, opponents are highlighting the White House's recent decision to oppose the measure.