One has to wonder why the Orange school trustees are putting the question of bilingual education on the November ballot. Participatory democracy is good, but this is an instance in which a decision already has been made. For the board to hold its finger to the wind is likely to do little more than further politicize what should be an educational issue.

Under the rubric of “back to basics,” board members too often have put ideology ahead of education. It is ironic that this time the seven-member board would ask district voters whether they agree with the board’s action on bilingual teaching. After all, this district earlier did away with counseling programs that were supported by many parents and which cost the district nothing.

In switching from bilingual education to English immersion this month, the board again ignored the wishes of many parents. Now the trustees are seeking support from all voters, not just parents, in Orange, Villa Park and the parts of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove that are included in the district.

The vote will come after the state Education Department already has approved the district’s switch from bilingual education for a year. One board member acknowledged that the question on the November ballot is an attempt to show state officials that residents in the district support a permanent waiver from the requirement that bilingual education be offered.

But the vote is unlikely to justify any sweeping conclusion on a complex issue. Not all parents of school-age children will vote. And no matter what the results, politics should not determine educational curricula. The test should be what works in the classroom, not at the ballot box.

The district needs hard information, not emotional responses to general solicitations of support.

Let the district present tests to show whether students learn better in bilingual classes or English-only classes. Let the trustees see whether some students learn better one way and others the other way. Let them persuade parents if one method proves preferable or, if there is no clear-cut choice, give parents alternatives.



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