Ventura County Star

Tuesday, August 11, 1998

Oxnard District Tests Proposition 227
1,700 parents sign waivers to keep children in bilingual education.
By KATHLEEN WILSON, The Ventura County Star

More than 1,700 parents have signed waivers to keep their children in bilingual education classes in the Oxnard School District, which has the highest number of students affected by Proposition 227 in Ventura County.

Principals at eight Oxnard schools said Monday that it looks like half or more of the children enrolled in classes for limited-English speakers will be taught in bilingual classes. The waivers don't take effect right away -- children under age 10 must be in English immersion classes for 30 days -- but after that, it's a matter of parental choice.

Carmen Ambriz already has voted.

"I signed the waiver because this is very important for our children," the mother of two said.

She says she fears that her sons, who are in second and third grade at Kamala School in Oxnard, would have a hard time learning if they couldn't use Spanish. Both she and her husband, Joe, are pleased with the program as it exists, she said.

"It gives them a chance to learn in both languages," Ambriz said.

Passed by the voters in June, Proposition 227 says students must be taught overwhelmingly in English, but it allows parents to exempt their children. Other school districts also will give parents the chance to sign waivers, but Oxnard is considered a key test of the initiative because of the city's large number of limited-English-speaking students and the fact that the district's schools get under way a month before most other schools in the county.

Oxnard School District officials expect about 3,600 limited-English speakers to start in these English immersion classes today. That's about 60 percent of the 6,000 limited-English-speaking district students affected by the initiative.

Stephanie Purdy, manager of English language development, said she won't know for a couple weeks how many waivers are signed. But principals said the early returns are substantial.

Administrators at McKinna, Brekke, Curren, Lemonwood, Kamala and Sierra Linda elementary schools reported waivers accounting for almost half their limited-English speakers. The percentage totaled 75 percent at Chavez Elementary and may exceed 60 percent at Rose Avenue, but reached only about 25 percent to 30 percent at Ritchen, which has fewer limited-English-speaking students than the average school in the district.

Administrators at the four remaining elementary schools in the district could not be reached or did not know how many waivers had been signed.

Ileene Gershon, principal at McKinna School, said parents have signed waivers for about 200 of the 450 children who normally would be in bilingual classes. Like many other educators, she's not sure what the final tally will be.