Orange Unified School District trustees Thursday voted unanimously to hire consultants to help them phase out classes taught in languages other than English despite heavy opposition from bilingual education teachers and parents.
About 1,300 students are enrolled in such classes now, and more than 150 people, mostly Hispanic parents and some of their children, packed the board’s meeting room at district headquarters on Handy Street in Orange to protest the board’s vote.
Some parents waved multicolored signs declaring “How can my child read in a language he doesn’t understand? ” and “Let’s move ahead to a multicultural 21st century. “
The parents’ concerns were supported by several teachers in Orange Unified’s bilingual education program.
Celso Rodriguez, the bilingual resource teacher at Jordan Elementary in Orange, presented a petition signed by 742people opposed to the plan.
Rodriguez, who said the petition comes from the district’s bilingual education committee which includes parent and teacher members, urged board members to speak to those involved in bilingual education before they vote to end the program over a two-year transition process.
“You can choose to send your child to a GATE program (for gifted students),” Rodriguez said. “Would you be telling a GATE parent he no longer has that choice? ” Barbara Hernandez, a bilingual teacher for kindergarten through second grade at Lampson Elementary in Garden Grove said, “Bilingual education is an absolute necessity for students who don’t speak English. The children in bilingual education are leading in test scores. They’re finishing their transition to English in one or two years. ” Despite the passionate support for the bilingual program, board members remained firm. They disagreed with claims by bilingual supporters that evidence shows bilingual classes work better than English-only ones.
“I’m not against the bilingual education program,” Trustee Robert Viviano said. “I’m for English fluency. The results of the new plan would be fully monitored. All students will receive assistance. “
Speaking in Spanish, trustee Rick Ledesma invited all the parents to meet with him at their schools in the future.
He added in English, “This is a proposal that will take two years of change. We want to work with all parents. ” The board’s plan would include a permanent English readiness program for preschoolers in the district. A consultant working with Orange officials will study whether the program can be supported by a long-term partnership with local businesses.
Orange County Register reporter Katie Hickox contributed to this report.