English-only: Voters may speak

EDUCATION: The Orange school board will consider putting the issue on the ballot.

ORANGE, CA—Voters could have a say in whether Orange Unified School District should teach in English only.

The school board has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday to consider putting a nonbinding proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot, when four seats on the seven-member board will be up for grabs.

“Part of the criticism we received is that the decision didn’t represent the community,” said school board President Martin Jacobson, who is up for re-election. “This is a very controversial issue and we want to find out how the public feels. “

The proposal would ask voters to say yes or no on this question: “Do you agree with the recent decision of the Orange Unified School District to replace the Bilingual Education Program with an English Immersion Based Literacy Program? ” About a quarter of Orange Unified’s 28,000 students speak limited English, and about 1,400 are taught part time in Spanish.

The school board voted in May to eliminate bilingual education in favor of English-only instruction.

The plan is being challengedin court by parents and Hispanic-rights groups.

The ballot measure would not affect the outcome of the court challenge.

Amin David, president of Los Amigos of Orange County, one of the plaintiffs in the case against Orange Unified, said asking voters about bilingual education would not yield a fair outcome. Many parents of children affected by the English-only plan don’t vote because they’re not citizens, and most voters don’t have children in the program, he said.

About 12 percent of Orange Unified voters took part in the last school board election, in November 1995.

The Orange Unified School board meets at 4 p.m. Aug. 5 at district headquarters, 1401 N. Handy St. in Orange.

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