Bilingual Education Foe on Ballot for Top Schools Post

She challenged Eastin in 1994

One of bilingual education’s most ardent opponents will take a second run at the state’s top school post, banking on a major ballot initiative to help her defeat incumbent Delaine Eastin.

Gloria Matta Tuchman, of Tustin, Orange County, is co-sponsor of next June’s ballot initiative that would largely eliminate bilingual education from public schools throughout the state.

But while the initiative has appeared strong in recent polls, Tuchman’s fledgling candidacy has a way to go.

I’m running because I was encouraged, let’s put it that way, Tuchman, a first-grade teacher, said in a phone interview yesterday during a break from class. I’m not at liberty to say who’s encouraging me.

Tuchman said she would not trust Eastin — a supporter of reforming bilingual education — to enforce the anti-bilingual initiative if it passed.

When it passes, it will need to go forward, Tuchman said . But that’s not the only reason I’m running.

However, Tuchman would not give other reasons. I’m not really going to go into detail, she said.

Four years ago, Tuchman ran against Eastin to lead the nation’s largest school system, with its 5.5 million pupils. A virtual unknown, she won 8 percent of the vote and came in fifth in a crowded field of 12.

Today she is better known as co-sponsor of the forthcoming ballot initiative often referred to as the Unz initiative, after Ron Unz, the software millionaire who has been pushing it.

Now, Tuchman said, she wishes people would start calling it the Unz/Tuchman initiative, instead.

Cliff Staton, campaign manager for Eastin, said Tuchman’s candidacy would not turn the nonpartisan race into a debate over bilingual education.

He said the schools chief always expected to let voters know what she’s done — smaller classes, higher standards, and more technology than when she took office. She has an excellent record.

A third candidate has also joined the race: Miles Everett of Healdsburg. Everett, who runs a carpet cleaning business, opposes the Unz initiative and said the greatest problem facing the public schools is the attitude of the students.

Meanwhile, the powerful California Teachers Association is not about to let the bilingual issue dictate its agenda, either. The CTA’s state council voted recently to spend $550,000 to fight the Unz initiative, sources said, but apportioned $3 million to fight an initiative that would block unions from spending dues on political issues — a bread-and-butter issue for CTA.

The National Education Association will contribute an additional $500,000 to help its California affiliate fight the payroll initiative.

In addition, the state council voted to set aside $1.4 million to support a bipartisan plan — should it appear on the ballot — to allow school construction bond measures to pass by a simple majority rather than a two-thirds vote.

The large and influential union’s state council met during the last weekend in January to divvy up its $11 million initiative fund, sources said.

Last fall, the CTA gave $200,000 to the No on Unz campaign, bringing the total committed to $550,000.

CTA spokesman Bob Cherry called the figure a substantial amount to combat the anti-bilingual measure that would permit parents to sue individual teachers if they believe the class is not in keeping with the initiative’s English-only requirements.

The payroll issue in particular was given more money, Cherry said, because it’s a much larger issue than the other things. Not only wouldn’t we be able to make teachers’ voices heard on bilingual education, but we would be silenced on all forms of education.

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