Yes on Prop. 227

TEACHING: Voters approve the change to English-only instruction in California classrooms. Some school officials say they will resist.

California’s schoolchildren should learn English by being taught in English,
voters said Tuesday as they overwhelmingly endorsed Proposition 227.

The initiative requires the state’s 1.4 million English learners to be taught in English, ending a 30-year experiment with bilingual education.

“How can you argue with English for the children?” said Gloria Matta Tuchman, the Santa Ana schoolteacher who was also the initiative’s co-sponsor. “That’s what they need to stay in school. That’s what they need to graduate from high school.”

Schools are supposed to implement the new law within 60 days. Most school officials in Orange County said the initiative will not require immediate changes in their curriculum since only 13 percent of the county’s 137,000 limited-English students are taught part time in Spanish.

But in Santa Ana, some school officials said they would resist by filing a lawsuit to overturn it or encouraging parents to request waivers to continue bilingual education.

“I personally will recommend that,” said Santa Ana school board President Nativo Lopez.

Victory came despite opposition from most political leaders, including President Clinton and the four major gubernatorial candidates.

The initiative’s success is likely to have repercussions across the country because California has more than half the nation’s limited-English students.

Like earlier measures aimed at ending public services for illegal immigrants and race-based affirmative action, Prop. 227 appealed to voters disaffected with programs that seem to support minorities over traditional values. But it also drew support from immigrants who want their children to learn English.

Many state ballot initiatives have targeted schools, but Prop. 227 is the first to mandate a specific style of instruction.

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