Bilingual Education Critic Makes Run For State Superintendency

An Orange County, Calif., teacher who is the co-sponsor of a controversial initiative that would sharply curtail bilingual education programs in California public schools is running for state superintendent of public instruction.

It is the second time Gloria Matta Tuchman, 56, has run for the state post. In 1994, she finished fifth in a field of 12 candidates in the primary election. She lost the race to the current state schools chief, Delaine Eastin, who served as a Democrat in the California legislature. Ms. Tuchman is a Republican, but the superintendent’s race is nonpartisan. Ms. Eastin is expected to run for reelection against several candidates this year.

Along with Ron K. Unz, a Silicon Valley multimillionaire who ran unsuccessfully for the gop gubernatorial nomination four years ago, Ms. Tuchman is the co-chair of the "English for the Children" initiative. The ballot measure, which will go before voters June 2, seeks to require that schools teach most limited-English-proficient students in English. ("English Spoken Here," Jan. 14, 1998.)

The nationally known math teacher Jaime Escalante will serve as the 1st grade teacher’s honorary campaign chairman; he is also the honorary chairman of the ballot-initiative campaign. Mr. Escalante won fame when the 1987 film "Stand and Deliver" depicted his work with Hispanic students in an East Los Angeles high school.

Beyond Bilingual Issues

At a Feb. 10 press conference held to announce her candidacy, Ms. Tuchman emphasized that eliminating bilingual education would not be her only aim as state schools chief. She also wants to end so-called social promotions, reduce class sizes, emphasize basic skills and phonics-based reading, and support private school vouchers.

"The current state superintendent and I disagree strongly on the issue of bilingual education. But that is certainly not the only reason I am running for this office," Ms. Tuchman said in a news release. Ms. Eastin opposes the ballot initiative.

While some initiative supporters raised concerns last week that Ms. Tuchman’s campaign might interfere with the ballot measure, Sheri Annis, a spokeswoman for the English for the Children campaign, said there were no plans to ask the teacher to resign her position as initiative co-chair.

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