State To Hear Orange Unified's Anti-Bilingual Bid

Orange Unified School District’s bid to replace bilingual education with an English-intensive system will go before the state Board of Education today, with state staff seeking to postpone or deny the application.

The district, with 28,000 students, hopes to become the largest in California in recent years to win a broad waiver from state bilingual education rules.

Schools with high numbers of students who are not fluent in English are generally required to offer classes in their native languages or come up with an alternative acceptable to state regulators.

Orange, with many Spanish-speaking students, has drawn up a plan to teach students in English, with some classroom help from bilingual aides and special tutoring sessions after school. The district also is arranging summer English courses and a program for pre-kindergarten students. Officials hope to begin with the school session starting July 1.

Norman Gold, manager of bilingual compliance for the state Department of Education, said Wednesday that Orange’s plan fails to make a convincing case for its programs and how they will be evaluated. Gold said the staff is trying to persuade state board members to delay a decision.

Robert Viviano, an Orange trustee, said he was optimistic. “I have no unrealistic expectations, but I mean business. It’s a good program that’s been in the planning stages for some time. I believe in it and so do others.”

Since February 1996, three smaller Orange County school districts have obtained waivers similar to the one sought by Orange. Westminster School District and Savanna Elementary, based in Anaheim, both won English-immersion waivers.

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