Bilingual Education Vote Weighed

Schools: Orange trustees will consider ballot measure on program. Critics say this ignores Latino parents.

ORANGE—The Orange school board will decide Tuesday whether to let voters pass judgment on its decision to drop bilingual education, in what one trustee called an effort to show public support for an action school officials have already taken.

If placed on the Nov. 4 ballot, the Orange measure would stoke an already intense public debate over an educational system that several Orange County districts have rejected in recent years.

Orange Unified School District serves about 29,000 students in Orange, Villa Park and parts of Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana.

On Friday, the district formally dropped for at least one year a bilingual program that had taught an estimated 1,500 elementary students in Spanish, their native language. Instead, those students are now being taught in English, with some help from bilingual aides.

Orange secured permission for the switch after the state Board of Education last month took no action to stop it. But the district’s action faces a legal challenge from Latino advocates who allege that the rights of Spanish-speaking parents were trampled.

Their lawsuit is pending in Sacramento County Superior Court.


Martin Jacobson, president of the school board, said Saturday that putting an advisory measure on the ballot would be inexpensive because the district already has scheduled a November election for four trustees on the seven-member board.

“One reason to do it is to put a stop to some of the criticism that we’re not representing the community,” Jacobson said. “By far, the community as a whole is in agreement with what we’re doing.”

But Amin David, president of the Latino rights group Los Amigos of Orange County, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said a public vote would fail to take into account the voice of many parents who aren’t yet citizens.

He said trustees had ignored the pleas of hundreds of Latino parents last spring to save the bilingual program.

“We know what the result is going to be,” David said, referring to the advisory vote. “Of course the voters are going to say no. It kind of begs the question. If a vote can be predicted, then what’s the value?”

The nonbinding measure, Jacobson said, would ask: “Do you agree with the recent decision of the Orange Unified School District to replace the Bilingual Education Program with an English Immersion-Based Literacy Program?”

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