TURLOCK—Organizers of a debate on Proposition 227, the initiative which would limit bilingual education programs, are beginning to worry it may be standing room only.

“I’ve been getting hundreds of calls,” said Lorraine Headrick, president of the 8th District PTA, which spans eight counties between Lodi and Merced. “If we go to capacity, we may need to look at how to handle the overflow.”

She said volunteers are exploring the idea of wiring other rooms at Turlock Junior High School with televisions where spectators could watch the April 27 debate.

“We originally thought there would be 100 to 150 people there,” Headrick said. “Now we believe we could get 400 or more.”

The high interest apparently stems from the credentials of the debate participants.

Ron Unz is one of those who will debate. He is the author of the proposition and a former Republican challenger to Gov. Wilson in 1994. He also is a theoretical physicist, president and CEO of a Palo Alto software company, Wall Street Analytics Inc. Unz holds graduate degrees from Harvard, Cambridge and Stanford universities.

Unz will be joined by Fernando Vega, a longtime leader of Hispanic Democrats in the Bay Area and a past member of the Redwood City Board of Education and Redwood City City Council. While on the school board, he helped establish bilingual education in Redwood City schools. He now says those programs are a failure and believes they should be abolished.

On the other side of the debate will be Holli Thier, spokeswoman for Citizens for An Educated America: No on 227 Campaign. She earned her law degree from Hastings College of Law. She served as a deputy district attorney for San Francisco before forming Baca Thier and Associates, a community relations firm. She has served as vice president of the League of Women Voters — San Francisco and as a lobbyist for the UC Student Lobby in Sacramento.

Thier will be joined by Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, a consultant with the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Coleman served as principal of the first Alternative Bilingual Multicultural School for Farm Worker Children in Delano. She is a past president of the California Association for Bilingual Education.

The debate format will include two-minute opening statements from each panelist, 14 questions with about four minutes set aside for answers and rebuttals from both sides, and closing statements.

The event is being hosted by the Turlock Council PTA, Headrick said. “Each council takes a turn hosting an event so we can spread out the events in our district. It was Turlock’s turn.”

The April 27 debate, free to the public, is at 7 p.m. at Turlock Junior High, 3951 N. Walnut Ave. Call 525-8782.



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