ANAHEIM, CA—Saying California is suffering from a virulent attack
of anti-immigrant fever, bilingual educators meeting in Anaheim on Friday said they are worried that what little progress they have made the past decade could soon be rolled back.
Their most pressing concern is that Gov. Pete Wilson will try to appoint someone unsympathetic to bilingual education to replace convicted state schools chief Bill Honig.
“We will vigorously block any appointment to that position who
is unfriendly to the bilingual-education agenda,” said Terry
Delgado, president of the California Association for Bilingual Education.
For three days, the organization’s annual convention has been abuzz with fear and opposition to the English-only movement.
Bilingual educators say non-English-speaking students should be taught English in public schools but while they are learning should get instruction in other subjects in their home languages.
Members of the English-only movement say students in US public schools should be taught exclusively in English.
During Honig’s 10-year tenure as superintendent of public instruction, school districts have come under more and more pressure to provide native-language instruction when possible.
But the state’s universities continue to produce mostly teachers fluent only in English, meaning there aren’t enough bilingual educators to teach such classes.
The result, in many cases, are hybrid programs with problems such as crowding.
Bilingual educators say many districts have never made sincere attempts to adopt bilingual strategies.
The few statistics available on the subject suggest the state is not successfully teaching English to immigrant students.
Nearly 1 million students, or one in five public-school students statewide, have limited English skills. More arrive each month, while less than 6 percent each year are reclassified as fluent.
“The schools have failed our children,” said Deborah Escobedo, an attorney for an education-rights group in San Francisco.