Warning that schools are ill-prepared for implementing the proposition next week as directed, civil rights advocates have asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s ruling that cleared the way for the state’s voter-endorsed bilingual education ban.
Supporters of bilingual instruction hope the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will delay Proposition 227 while they appeal U.S. District Judge Charles Legge’s decision to uphold the initiative. Under the measure, supported by 61 percent of voters in June, most of the state’s 1.4 million limited-English speaking schoolchildren would spend a year in an English-immersion classroom before being main-streamed into English-only classes.
In San Francisco, Superintendent of Schools Bill Rojas told parents and students that the district would try to comply with Prop. 227 — but would keep its bilingual education programs.
In a letter sent last week to parents and students, he said the district would supplement its bilingual education programs with “structured English immersion.” It does not, however, plan to cut its bilingual education program, which consists of four approaches: dual-language enrichment, which employs bilingual instruction for kids of all ages with a gradual shift toward learning in English; a two-way bilingual track, in which English learners and native-English speakers in grades K-12 learn each other’s languages; total immersion, in which native-English speakers students in grades K-5 learn another language; and intensive English instruction, which relies on English instruction in conjunction with English as a Second Language teaching methods.
That last approach is the one Los Angeles school officials believe will pass muster with Prop. 227, and it’s the main one they plan to offer limited English speakers starting this fall. Rojas however, maintains that San Francisco schools are not only entitled to keep the other programs, but that a court order compels it.
“It is important for you to know that our decision to continue our bilingual programs is not a defiant act against Proposition 227,” he said. “Because SFUSD is required to comply with the consent decree, it also has the latitude to provide students with equal access to core instruction through existing programs.”
The consent decree to which he referred arose from the landmark 1974 Lau v. Nichols case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that limited English speakers were entitled to equal educational opportunities. Although the case provided most of the impetus for bilingual education, the justices never mandated that approach. Legge, in upholding Prop. 227, found that the measure’s provisions do not deny students equal opportunity.
Prop. 227 does allow parents to seek waivers to keep their kids in bilingual education. It also makes educators liable if they subject students to bilingual education against parents’ wishes. In his letter, Rojas tried to head off that possibility by promising that “no student will be denied the option of structured English immersion, and no student will be placed in bilingual education or any other program when it is not desired by the parents.”