OCEANSIDE — Parents of 15 Oceanside students who wanted their children enrolled in bilingual education classes in the era of Proposition 227 have received an answer understandable in just about any language: No.
The voter-approved proposition mandated an end to most bilingual education in California public schools, but gave parents a chance to petition for a waiver to exempt their children from the measure and continue native-language classes.
Proposition 227 states that waivers may be granted if a student has ” special physical, emotional, psychological, or educational needs” that warrant an alternative to English-only classes.
Oceanside Superintendent Ken Noonan has operated his district’s 22 schools this year with a strict interpretation of the measure that puts the burden on parents to prove that special need.
Parents know the child’s home behavior best, Noonan said, but “parents don’t know the child’s progress at school. They aren’t there for six hours (a day).”
The district would not release the names of the waiver applicants, citing student-record confidentiality.
Noonan said the parents generally made their case on emotional need. Their applications described children coming home from school crying because they couldn’t understand their lessons.
That’s a behavioral problem, not a learning problem, Noonan said — lots of kindergartners and first-graders cry about school.
None of the parents of more than 4,000 non-English-speaking students in the 21,000-student district had applied for a waiver until last month. The first 15 applications followed several candlelight vigils outside school board meetings, during which parents protested that the administration discouraged them from seeking waivers.
Noonan said the district explained the measure, including the waiver process, through mailers and at meetings at each of the elementary schools.
Since September the non-English-speaking students have either been in mainstream English-language classes or in classes taught with sheltered English immersion, in which little or no foreign language is used but teachers emphasize vocabulary and employ extra visuals to aid comprehension.
Of last month’s applicants, 13 students were from Del Rio Elementary School, one was from Reynolds Elementary and one from Oceanside High School.
Eleven waiver applications were rejected on the grounds that the students were making sufficient progress in English. Noonan judged that one student may need special education and will decide that case after the student takes diagnostic tests. Three students’ waivers were approved because their teachers said they weren’t learning enough in English.
Even those three students won’t get bilingual education, though. Districts are only obligated to offer a bilingual education class when 20 students in a given grade in a given school receive waivers.
Since the first batch of 15 waiver applications arrived, Oceanside has received 50 more waiver applications, all of which are pending.
Neighboring districts have granted waivers at a much higher rate than Oceanside has.
In November, the Vista schools reported that all of the more than 3,000 waiver applications had been approved, Escondido elementary schools had granted waivers to 454 of 492 applicants and in Carlsbad, 165 of 225 applicants had been approved.