OCEANSIDE —- The state’s investigation of the local school district’s compliance with Proposition 227 is “ludicrous,” Assemblyman Ron Unz, the author of the initiative, said Tuesday.

A report on the results of the investigation, written by state schools Superintendent Delaine Easton and released Friday, demands that the Oceanside Unified School District “implement corrective actions to ensure that English learners…receive all services required” within 60 days.

Prop. 227, approved by voters in June 1998, eliminated most bilingual education programs and replaced them with one-year English immersion programs in California public schools. Its goal was to teach English more quickly to students who in the past could spend years in bilingual education.

“The state Department of Education had been a vehement opponent of Proposition 227 (before its passage),” said Unz, a Bay area Republican. “Now they claim to be acting to enforce Prop. 227 using an absurd interpretation of the law. They are attempting to re-establish bilingual education.”

The state’s report said the district’s program failed “to serve the needs of English learners and denied parents the opportunity to enroll their students in alternative programs.”

Oceanside Superintendent Ken Noonan said Monday that most of the issues raised in the report have been addressed in the 10 months since investigators visited the district, and that all of them can be resolved. A plan outlining most of the changes is scheduled to be presented at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Most California school districts have granted waivers that allow some students to continue bilingual education. Oceanside had 144 applications for waivers in 1999 and granted only seven of them, too few to meet the state’s minimum of 20 waivers for an alternative bilingual class.

Investigators from the Department of Education and the federal Office of Civil Rights visited Oceanside schools in December and January after some parents of Oceanside students complained that the district’s strict interpretation of Prop. 227 discriminated against English-language learners.

The investigation is “particularly ludicrous because Oceanside in the past two years has doubled the test scores of all their immigrant students,” Unz said Tuesday. “They had the most rapid advances of any district in the state, and they are the district most strictly complying with (Prop.) 227.”

Attorney Deborah Escobedo of the San Francisco office of Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy represents the parents who filed the complaints. On Tuesday, she disagreed with Unz, Noonan and others who see improvements in Oceanside’s results on the Stanford Achievement Test-Ninth Edition, used by all California public schools since 1998.

“It is not the sort of test that one uses to determine whether one has learned English,” Escobedo said. “It doesn’t tell you whether a kid has substantive knowledge. There has to be more.”

Stuart Greenfeld, a state assistant superintendent, said the report —-
prepared jointly by the state Office of Education and the federal Office of Civil Rights —- took 10 months to prepare because “we’re trying to be sure of our facts.”

“We requested additional information,” Greenfeld said. “There was communication going on with the district in terms of what they could supply to us.”

Investigators found no fault with the way the Oceanside district grants waivers, he said. The main problem was that some of the district’s policies were unclear regarding non-English-speaking and limited-English-speaking students.

“The district could not document that they follow their own policies and procedures,” Greenfeld said. “There’s nothing to prove that they did.”

The state could withhold a portion of the school district’s funding if it fails to make the corrections, he said.


Contact staff writer Phil Diehl at (760) 901-4087 or diehl@nctimes.com.


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