Board shows support for Prop. 227 waiver

San Bernardino members reverse their stance by backing attempt that would exempt all district schools from enforcing the requirement that children be taught mostly in English.

SAN BERNARDINO—Most San Bernardino board members did an about-face Tuesday in
supporting a waiver that would exempt all district schools from
Prop. 227’s requirement that children be taught mostly in English.

A waiver, if approved by the state, would allow the San
Bernardino school district to keep its bilingual programs.??District
officials say they still would support offering English immersion
classes to non-English speaking students whose parents prefer that
type of instruction.

Board member Lou Yeager said state lawmakers were lazy in
failing to repair a bilingual program responsibly.??Prop. 227,
passed by voters in June, is too drastic, he said.

“I’m in favor of a waiver just to tell Sacramento to go jump in
a lake,” he said.

The board will vote on the issue at its Sept. 29 meeting.

The attitudes expressed Tuesday were a reversal from two weeks
ago, when one board member’s request for a waiver was met largely
with silence.

Board support was expressed after the superintendent’s
bilingual task force, composed of district employees and parents,
outlined the pros and cons of requesting a waiver.

Among the benefits, Assistant Superintendent Leslie Pulliam said,
the district would gain time to create a quality English immersion
program.??Also, school officials would have to shift fewer students
and teachers to new classrooms in the middle of the year, and
parents would have more time to determine the type of instruction
they favor for their children, she said.

Pulliam said the biggest dilemma in requesting a waiver is
public perception.

“Because people don’t understand how (Prop.) 227 works, they
might think we’re trying to break the law, or think that we want to
keep children in bilingual classes forever,” she said.??”That’s
wrong because we have recommended an English immersion program.??We
just want more time to put a good program together. ”

After the presentation, Valdez, Yeager, and board members
Danny Tillman and Tony Dupre expressed support for the idea.

“One of the reasons you want to have a waiver is to eliminate
students sitting in a classroom not understanding a word that’s
said,” said Valdez, who has vigorously pushed the proposal for
several weeks.

Only board member James Marinis expressed serious doubt.

“When I went to kindergarten I didn’t know a word of English,
nothing,” he said.??”But I survived. ”

Marinis said passionate support on both sides of the issue has
left him confused.

“How do we as a board know which side is correct,” he said.??”At
this point I don’t know if I can vote for the waiver. ”
So far, at least 37 schools or districts have requested waivers
from the state law’s requirements.??Last month, an Alameda County
Superior Court judge ruled that the state board of education must
consider a local district’s request for a waiver, which would let
it keep its entire bilingual program.??The state board has appealed
the ruling.

Parents already may seek individual waivers to keep their
children in bilingual classes if the students already know English,
are at least 10 years old, or have “special needs. ” Parents of 611
pupils in the San Bernardino City Unified School District have
signed waivers requesting that their children remain in the
bilingual program.

School officials are reviewing the requests.

Pulliam said the problem with individual waivers is the cost in
staff time and paperwork to review them.??In addition, many parents
do not know that option is available to them, despite an aggressive
campaign by the district to inform them of their choices, she said.

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