Supporters of bilingual education lashed out at a California millionaire yesterday, branding him a racist outsider who will bankroll a ballot measure to scrap the state’s bilingual program.
State Rep. Antonio F. Cabral blasted the involvement of high-tech mogul Ron Unz with the group English for The Children of Massachusetts, which announced yesterday it would begin collecting 57,100 signatures needed to put its reform initative on the ballot by the 2002 ballot.
“This is not about education policy,” said Cabral (D-New Bedford), a co-sponsor of legislation to overhaul the existing system. “This is about the politics of hatred, the politics of division – divide and conquer.”
Roslindale mother Regla Gonzalez of the League of United Latin American Citizens called the proposal a “racist” attack on the freedom of parents to choose a bilingual program.
The outbursts followed the announcement by Unz – godfather of a referenda movement that has so far won in California and Arizona – and local supporters that they will start collecting signatures.
Unz fired back, calling the race card tactics of state politicians and Hispanic activists “silly” and similar to the first wave of opposition his forces faced in California, Arizona and Colorado, where another ballot initiative is under way.
The English For Children proposal would require non-English speaking students to spend a year in a bilingual class, and then enter mainstream classrooms.
The plan, which also declares English “the common public language” in the United States and Massachusetts, would give parents the option of keeping their children in a traditional program.
“They’re saying I’m anti-immigrant,” said the unflappable Unz. “But how can something that is supported by immigrant parents be anti-immigrant?
Immigrants want their children to learn English.”