RIVERSIDE—An initiative to restrict bilingual education is bad policy that would outlaw good teaching methods, said speakers at a Tuesday night forum on the measure.

The Town Hall Meeting on Prop. 227 drew about 65 people to Poly High School in Riverside for a session that included a legal analysis and loud debate of the June 2 ballot measure proposed by software millionaire Ron Unz.

An opponent of bilingual education questioned the arguments of a volunteer with the chief group fighting the measure.

Referring to the group’s name, “Citizens for an Educated
America: No on Unz,” the man asked, “Does that mean that people who are against bilingual education are uneducated? “

The Riverside resident got several answers from those gathered in the school’s Little Theatre, many of whom wore “No on 227″ buttons.

“I’m a Spanish teacher and I say people who speak two languages are, yes, more educated,” said Jose Medina, a Poly High teacher and Riverside Community College board member.

The measure would place limited English-proficient pupils in English immersion classes with “nearly all” instruction in English for about a year. After that, children would move to regular classrooms. Parents could seek waivers under certain conditions.

Supporters say bilingual education has failed and the measure would teach English to immigrants better and faster. Opponents say some teaching in a child’s native tongue is needed while they learn English and prepare to move to regular classes. Otherwise, they say, pupils will fall behind in academic subjects.

Cristina Camarena, the No on Unz volunteer, called Prop. 227 “a poor initiative. “

Riverside attorney Sonia Rubio Carvalho said the measure has many unclear sections and may leave loopholes for schools to continue offering bilingual education. For example, the measure does not say school districts cannot solicit waivers from parents, she said.

Bilingual educators, like Jorge Sanchez of Mira Loma Middle School, defended their profession.

“The purpose of bilingual education is to teach English,” Sanchez said.

Diane Tudge, a teacher at Ina Arbuckle Elementary School in Rubidoux, said she has taught pupils who moved from districts offering English-only programs.

“Generally I can say that the students who have come from the English-only classes have done worse than those who come from bilingual education,” she said.

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