Sacramento Bee

Friday, September 18, 1998

Supporters of Bilingual Education Lose Ruling
By JANIE HAR, Bee Correspondent

OAKLAND -- Supporters of bilingual education suffered a setback Thursday when an Alameda County judge ruled that the state Board of Education was not in contempt in ignoring requests for districtwide waivers from Proposition 227 pending an appeal.

Superior Court Judge Henry E. Needham Jr. ordered the state board in August to consider such waivers, but had not issued a formal written judgment. On Thursday, he ordered that it be issued.

With the judgment, the board can now appeal Needham's decision, said Rae Belisle, counsel for the Board of Education.

Proposition 227, passed by 61 percent of the voters in June, effectively eliminates bilingual education and requires teachers to conduct their lessons "overwhelmingly" in English. Parents are allowed to request waivers for individual children after a 30-day period.

Last Friday, the board voted unanimously to postpone action on requests from five school districts, pending an appeal.

Needham also denied motions that would have compelled the board to accept, consider and vote on bilingual education waivers until the appellate court reviews his earlier ruling.

Lawyers for the Oakland, Berkeley and Hayward school districts sued the board in August over the waivers and said the board was violating Needham's ruling.

"They are not defying the court order. They are waiting for the court's order," said Angela Botelho, representing the state board in court Thursday.

Gov. Pete Wilson issued a statement Thursday praising the court "for rejecting this frivolous effort by these scofflaw school districts to seek a temporary restraining order against any efforts by the state to enforce Proposition 227."

"I also applaud the court's rejection of their efforts to hold the Board of Education in contempt simply because it has chosen to seek appellate guidance before it considers granting any . . . waiver," the governor said.