In a rousing call to action in defense of the state’s threatened bilingual education program, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown on Friday told a meeting of 5,000 bilingual educators in Anaheim that strong political pressure, up to and including a “wave of sit-in demonstrations” in the governor’s office, may be necessary to keep the program alive.
Brown (D-San Francisco) also accused Gov. George Deukmejian, a Republican, of favoring budget items that helped mostly whites, claiming that the governor “used a light test for his budget.”
Brown called for massive sit-ins at the governor’s office by bilingual education supporters. Although he predicted that some might be arrested, Brown later told reporters that he wasn’t advocating civil disobedience.
His speech was interrupted by frequent applause from the educators attending the state convention of the California Assn. for Bilingual Education at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers hotel.
Brown noted that last fall, Deukmejian had vetoed Brown’s bill that would have continued the life of state-mandated bilingual teaching. The bilingual law expires June 30 unless another bill that Brown recently introduced passes before then.
But the governor will veto this second attempt, Brown predicted, unless supporters of bilingual education apply pressure.
“I want to see you become so politically active that the wave of sit-in demonstrations in the governor’s office will exhaust the supply of jail space for those who may be arrested when they are ordered to be removed,” Brown said. Such demonstrations are “the confrontations that absolutely must take place . . . in the political arena over this and over issues of concern to people of this state,” he said.
After the speech, Brown said he wasn’t inciting educators to civil disobedience. “No, I’m not calling for that,” Brown said. “I’m just saying that they should come to the governor’s office, and I’m guessing that some might be arrested.”
Deukmejian’s assistant press secretary, Donna Lipper, said Friday: “In regards to the speaker’s suggestion about sit-ins, those sorts of tactics have been counterproductive in the past, and this administration does not do business that way.
“As for bilingual education, the governor did not veto the program. He vetoed that one bill (sponsored by Brown) because the governor is concerned about the cost and the effect of the Gann limit on state spending. But Gov. Deukmejian is not opposed to bilingual education; he is very supportive of it.”
In his speech, Brown also accused Deukmejian of making budget decisions according to the races that the programs would benefit. He used the analogy of “a light meter” that scanned budget requests.
“The light test for his budget works as follows: As you look at the various programs, you run the light meter over those programs. If the light meter registers very clearly nothing, you give lots of money to those programs. If the light meter registers any color, you reduce the amount,” he said.
Brown cited cuts in the Native American (Education) Program, Urban Impact Aid — “translated into black assistance” — and bilingual education.
“Other programs, like the University of California, in the field of education, when you run the light meter for it, there are few blips . . . it comes out almost all white. And the results are that he increased the commitment to that institution. But when he runs the light meter over the community colleges, it goes off the scale. He promptly reduced the commitment to that program.”
The exception to the theory, Brown said, was the governor’s commitment to money for new prisons.
Lipper said the “remarks attributed to the speaker about the ‘light meter’ are so outlandish and unfortunate that we will not dignify them with a comment.”
Brown said he won’t allow passage of a rival bill sponsored by Assemblyman Frank Hill (R-Whittier) that would emphasize the teaching of English. “It will not pass, it will not pass,” Brown said.
Also at the convention Friday, a federal report on bilingual education was released. The study by the General Accounting Office had been requested by Congress after the Reagan Administration’s efforts to reduce federal funds for bilingual teaching.
The GAO study found that most experts in the field “believe that the research evidence supports the use of native language in teaching” children who speak limited English.”
But the report noted that studies of the effectiveness of bilingual teaching appear to be flawed. Many of the studies, it found, “are too poorly designed.” The GAO said it thus could make “no recommendations to Congress” on the controversial bilingual education issue.