Bilingual debate is coming to a head

Closer to home: June primary will bring education issue to forefront in county.

As it gets closer to the June primary, look for the statewide debate over bilingual education to heat up in Ventura County.

A controversial initiative on the June ballot would essentially scrap bilingual education programs for the 1.4 million schoolchildren in California who aren’t fluent in English.

In Ventura County, where about 1 in 4 children would be affected, campaigns on both sides plan to get busy soon.

“We’ll speak anywhere people want to hear us,” said Steve Frank, spokesman for the pro-initiative campaign, which doesn’t have a name yet.

The campaign is affiliated with the statewide English for the Children campaign.

Frank said the group already has 30 to 40 members across the county.

He said he’s confident the initiative, sponsored by Silicon Valley millionaire Ron Unz, will get 70 percent of the vote in Ventura County.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of the state campaign fighting the initiative has already hit the streets registering voters and passing out fliers.

“We’re going to be strong,” said Maricela Morales, spokeswoman for the local chapter of Citizens for an Educated America.

The group changed its name from the Ventura County Competitive Edge Coalition.

Its supporters include El Concilio del Condado de Ventura and local chapters of the California Association for Bilingual Education, Association of Mexican-American Educators and California Teachers Association.

Last weekend, the group registered voters and spoke to more than 300 people, Morales said. More challenges lie ahead.

“There’s an ignorance about what the initiative is, so I think it’s just plain educating people about what does this initiative really propose,” Morales said.

Both groups said they’ll step up their efforts later this month.

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