Hispanic activist backs ending bilingual classes

LOS ANGELES – Fernando Vega, a longtime leader of Hispanic Democrats and a key campaign worker for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, has endorsed a proposed ballot initiative that would eliminate bilingual education in California.


“As a Hispanic and as a Democrat, I am very proud to serve as honorary chairman of the peninsula’s English for the Children initiative campaign against bilingual education,’ ” Mr. Vega said Tuesday outside a school where his grandchildren, he says, received bilingual education against their parents’ wishes.


The “English for the Children” initiative mandates that all students in California public schools be taught in English and placed in English-language classrooms. Parents who wish to place their children in bilingual classes must make a special request, a reversal of the current system.


About 1.3 million students in California schools are not proficient in English.


Initiative founder Ron Unz, a former Republican candidate for governor and San Francisco Bay-area software entrepreneur, says the state is harming children’s future by failing to move them into English-language classes.


The state’s bilingual lobby maintains that the programs work but have not been adequately funded and administered.


“I helped create our local bilingual education program because I believed that it would be best for Hispanic children,” Mr. Vega said. “But now, after many years of trying, it is obvious that bilingual education just doesn’t work.


“There is no shame in admitting that you once supported a program which you now see doesn’t work in practice. What is shameful is that so many politicians and other officials continue to support such a program year after year.”


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