Bilingual education waiver sought

SCHOOLS: Westminster will ask state for a permanent release.

WESTMINSTER, CA—If the airlines cooperate, Westminster School District officials will be in Sacramento on Wednesday to petition the state Board of Education for a permanent waiver from bilingual instruction requirements.

The request _ which would be the first granted in the state _ was on the state board’s December agenda, but a delay at John Wayne International Airport forced the Westminster contingent to cancel its appearance.

“Maybe this time we’ll actually make it up there,” joked Westminster board member Michael Verrengia.

Westminster was the first school district in California to obtain a temporary, two-year bilingual-education waiver. State board members have indicated an extension is more probable than a permanent release.

Westminster Superintendent Barbara DeHart said she will argue that students from foreign-language backgrounds have made significant progress under the district’s English-intensive instructional program, in which children receive only limited help in their own language from bilingual aides.

The request for a permanent waiver comes at a sensitive time. A statewide English for the Children initiative that would dismantle bilingual instruction will be on the June ballot.

Officials in school districts statewide are watching the Westminster case with an eye toward requesting their own waivers.

“This district is among the first to give us data (regarding English-only instruction), and that data is critical,” said Kathryn Dronenburg, a state board member from El Cajon. “We have to be careful that we don’t hold Westminster to a higher burden of
proof. But when you’re the first, you have to accept that
responsibility. ”
Three other Orange County school districts, have obtained state waivers.

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