Sacramento Bee

Saturday, June 27, 1998

Bilingual Education Waivers Are Ruled Out
By EDGAR SANCHEZ, Bee Staff Writer

Saying it must obey "the people's will," the state Board of Education decided Friday it is not empowered to grant waivers allowing bilingual education to continue after Proposition 227 takes effect as early as this fall.

By a 6-0 vote, the board said it would not consider waiver requests by six school districts seeking to maintain their bilingual education programs rather than adopt the English-immersion approach mandated by the measure.

"Turning away these waiver requests is hard, but 61 percent of the people voted for Prop. 227," board member Gerti Thomas said. "That's the will of the people."

The board's vote upset about 50 bilingual education supporters who, for three hours, had sat quietly through the meeting. Comprised of parents, teachers and school administrators, the group was not allowed to address the board until after the vote.

"I'm very disappointed in you guys," Laura Garcia, a Fresno teacher, said. Calling Proposition 227 "a form of language genocide," Garcia said she and others in the audience should have been heard before the board acted.

Marlon Foxworth, superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District, was also given one minute to speak -- after the fact.

"In Hayward, we have some (bilingual education) programs that are profoundly sound," he said. "Now, we have to get rid of them. (The result) will be an increase in dropouts from school."

Bill Lucia, the board's executive director, said Friday's meeting was not a public hearing, so there was no requirement for public comments. He pointed out that under Proposition 227, parents will have the right to pursue individual waivers to the English-immersion mandate.

The board received differing legal opinions on its power to grant Proposition 227 waivers. A deputy legislative counsel and the board's own attorney said the panel lacks the authority to grant such waivers. But Michael E. Hersher, general counsel of the state Department of Education, told board members they did have the power to grant waivers.

The board also heard from the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. Many of the speakers asked for a delay in implementing the ballot measure, which could go into effect by Sept. 1.

"You can't just ask people to walk into a classroom 49 days from today ... and expect a program to work," said Jacki Fox Ruby of the California Federation of Teachers.

Friday's meeting was the latest in a series of sessions in which the board is trying to develop guidelines for implementing Proposition 227. A public hearing is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at 721 Capitol Mall.

A separate battle over Proposition 227 is raging in the courts, where opponents have sued.