Anti-bilingual education initiative gets under way

BOSTON — Anti-bilingual education activist Ron Unz of California is scheduled to hold a press conference on the Statehouse steps this morning to announce a 2002 ballot initiative to overhaul the state’s bilingual education system.

But he will not be joined by the most prominent leader of those efforts in Massachusetts.

Backers of the initiative plan to file proposed language by tomorrow’s deadline with the state attorney general, who rules on the constitutionality of ballot questions.

Mr. Unz is a multimillionaire who bankrolled the 1998 ?English for the Children? ballot campaign that led to the abolition of traditional bilingual education in California.

A proposed Massachusetts ballot question was posted yesterday on the Web site of English for the Children.

Last night, state Sen. Guy W. Glodis, D-Worcester, said he would not participate in the 10:30 a.m. press conference with Mr. Unz. Mr. Glodis is leading an effort in the Legislature to replace bilingual education with a one-year English ?immersion program? and had initially contacted Mr. Unz for support.

?I can not in good conscience participate in this while we’re still working on a compromise,? Mr. Glodis said last night. However, he said, if a compromise is not reached by tomorrow morning he would back the initiative.

Meanwhile, opponents led by state Reps. Jarrett T. Barrios,
D-Cambridge, and Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, were mobilizing to counter Mr. Unz’ announcement last night.

They circulated a flyer in the Statehouse calling Mr. Unz a
?millionaire gadfly? and saying his proposal ?to completely eliminate transitional bilingual education is both wrongheaded and harmful to students.?

In recent weeks, Mr. Glodis and Mr. Cabral have been discussing a compromise between their competing bilingual education reform bills.

Mr. Glodis has said he will withdraw the ballot question if a compromise is reached.

Mr. Unz, who has also backed a successful ballot movement in Arizona,
has previously said he would not finance an initiative campaign in Massachusetts unless significant local support for it materialized.

Besides Unz, other scheduled participants at the press conference include members of the Massachusetts Bilingual Education Advisory Council and parents and community activists.

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