Bilingual Education Advocates Join in Efforts Against Chavez

Linda Chavez’s stance against bilingual education has prompted Hispanic groups to oppose her nomination to George W. Bush’s Cabinet as secretary of Labor.

The League of United Latin American Citizens on Monday called for Bush to withdraw Chavez’s nomination, while other groups criticized Bush for appointing a “token Hispanic” who might hold back minorities.

“Chavez has made a career out of advocating positions in direct opposition to the consensus positions of Hispanic leaders nationwide,” Rick Dovalina, LULAC national president, said during a news conference in Washington, D.C.

Dovalina cited Chavez’s record of seeking to eliminate affirmative action and bilingual education, and pushing for English as the nation’s official language.

Chavez could not be reached for comment, but Tucker Eskew, a spokesman with the Bush’s transition, said Bush believes Chavez will be a Labor Secretary with “common-sense positions.”

“People can disagree with those positions, but everyone should recognize her intelligence, her commitment to fair play and her compassion for all,” Eskew said.

He said Chavez opposes bilingual education that fails to make children fully literate in English.

“We equate her to what Justice Clarence Thomas is to the black community,” said Frances Gandara, executive director of the LULAC National Education Service Center in Albuquerque.

Thomas, an African American appointed to the Supreme Court by former President George Bush, came under fire from minorities for his stance against affirmative action.

Chavez, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Equal Opportunities, on the group’s Web site says most parents, especially immigrants, are intimidated by schools and that their children “are stuck” in bilingual programs.

“Most school districts with large Hispanic populations require parents with Spanish surnames to fill out a ‘home-language survey,’ ” Chavez states. “If parents report that Spanish is used in the home, even occasionally, the school may place the child in bilingual classes even if the grandchild speaks little or no Spanish.”

The group in 1998 helped 14 Albuquerque families file a lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools, alleging the district’s bilingual education programs don’t work and discriminate against Hispanic children.

A federal judge dismissed those claims but ruled a trial could be held on allegations APS retaliated against three students for participating in the lawsuit.

Attorney Brian Pangrle, who represents the families and Chavez’s group, said the plaintiffs are working on an appeal, pending resolution of the retaliation claims.

John Lopez, a member of the APS Hispanic Education Association, characterized Chavez as the “token Chicana they’re bringing in” and said her conservatism would hinder her performance.

“In my mind she’s a vendida a sell-out,” Lopez said. “We don’t need people like that in the higher offices because they hurt Hispanics more than they help us.”

Gandara said bilingual education would help Hispanics in the global economy, because “Spanish is spoken all over.”

Pangrle said Chavez wants to ensure all children have command of English, which “has become the language of the global economy.”

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