Education in Orange County faces some major political skirmishes in 1987.

Bilingual education, a controversial but major learning tool in many Orange County school districts, most notably in Santa Ana, may end as a state program. The state bilingual education law expires in June, and Gov. George Deukmejian in September vetoed a bill that would have continued it.

Despite strong Republican opposition, supporters of bilingual education will make another effort to pass a bill continuing the program. However, if the law expires, some form of two-language teaching still must take place in California schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered that instruction in a language understandable to students must be done until such students learn sufficient English.

Another political issue facing Orange County education is whether the county superintendent of schools should be elected, as now, or appointed by the five elected members of the county Board of Education. After the 1985-86 Orange County Grand Jury became the latest to criticize the county Education Department and urge a switch to an appointed superintendent, the board this year set up a special panel to study the matter. It will report back by March. If the panel recommends a change, the education board may petition the county Board of Supervisors to put the issue before voters in either the November, 1987, or June, 1988, election.

Also in the news in 1987 will be the fate of the incumbent school board in the Laguna Beach Unified School District. A recall effort is currently under way, aimed at four board members who voted to allow high school football coach Cedrick W. Hardman to continue in a volunteer, unofficial role, despite his arrest on drug-possession charges.

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