Support dwindling for Oceanside parents coalition

OCEANSIDE —- Participation appears to have dwindled in a parents group that filed a discrimination complaint last year against the school district for its strict implementation of a state initiative limiting bilingual education.

On Thursday, only one mother joined Ismael Avilez at the Oceanside Civic Center for a planned press conference to talk about the long-awaited results announced Monday of the California Department of Education and the federal Office of Civil Rights’ investigation of the parents’ complaint.

“It’s a very important breakthrough that the California Department of Education has finally agreed with us,” said Rufino Vasquez, speaking in Spanish interpreted by Avilez. She moved to Oceanside 14 years ago from Oaxaca, Mexico, and has children in the third and sixth grades at Libby Elementary School.

Dozens of parents marched carrying candles and signs in several of the group’s protests outside the Oceanside Unified School District’s headquarters a year ago.

Many members of the parents group —- the Coalicion Unidos por la Educacion de Nuestros Ninos —- have become “demoralized” since then, Avilez said.
They were disappointed when district officials denied the waivers that would have allowed their children. Their hopes faded further when the state took more than 10 months to investigate their complaint.

The parents claimed the school district had interpreted Proposition 227 so strictly that non-English-speaking and limited-English-speaking students were denied basic educational services. Prop. 227, passed by voters in June 1998, eliminated most bilingual education and replaced it with one-year English immersion classes.

The new law allowed districts to grant waivers for students who needed to continue bilingual classes. While many districts granted hundreds of the waivers, the Oceanside district granted too few to meet the minimum of 20 waivers to require a bilingual class.

Oceanside schools have seen large gains in the achievement-test scores of limited-English speaking students since the state adopted Prop. 227. Many top educators have hailed the Oceanside results as an example of the initiative’s success.

Investigators found several violations of state law and upheld portions of the parents’ complaint. However, the violations centered around the school district’s policies regarding its English immersion program. No violations were found in the procedures established for granting waivers.

Oceanside school officials have worked with state and federal investigators and agreed with them on many of their findings, Superintendent Ken Noonan said earlier this week.

Most of the issues raised by investigators have been addressed since they visited Oceanside in December and January, Noonan said. Many of those changes are scheduled to be presented to the school board at its meeting Tuesday.

Those changes are a help, Avilez said, saying that they never would have occurred without the parents’ effort.

Contact staff writer Phil Diehl at (760) 901-4078 or

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