Saying that Americans need to learn English to make the most of their lives, Rep. Ken Calvert on Friday endorsed a proposed ballot measure that would essentially eliminate bilingual education in California schools.

“I think that if people in this country want the opportunity as Americans, they must learn English,” Calvert told a luncheon meeting of the Riverside County Federation of Republican Women.

The initiative, expected to appear on the June ballot, would ban bilingual education in the classroom unless at least 20 students and their parents take steps to request such instruction in advance.

Proponents of the measure, which has proved to be popular among Californians in early polling, say bilingual education has failed and should be scrapped. Opponents contend that the measure is another attempt by Republican activists to marginalize Hispani c Californians by targeting program geared towards immigrants.

Calvert, R-Corona, said the measure would help non-English speakers quickly learn the nation’s dominant language.

Speaking to about 50 people at the Mission Inn, Calvert also backed a second initiative that would require unions to seek annual approval from members to use their dues for political purposes.

The measure, also expected to be on the June ballot, is being aggressively backed by Gov. Wilson and other Republican leaders that unions have opposed in previous elections.

Following the speech, Calvert said he is taking seriously a primary challenge from UC Riverside professor Joe Khoury. Khoury, who lost a 1994 Republican primary battle to Calvert by less than 900 votes, said Friday that veteran political consultant Ed Ro llins has agreed to serve as a campaign adviser.

Khoury said the two men still need to determine how large a role Rollins will play in the campaign. Rollins, who has worked on political campaigns for Ronald Reagan, Ross Perot and Richard Nixon, has a history of making remarks that have angered his own clients.

Rollins has derided some of the politicians he worked for and boasted in 1993 of giving money to black churches in New Jersey to depress the minority vote and help New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. The consultant later retracted his remarks and apo logized to Whitman.

Like Calvert, Khoury endorsed both the anti-bilingual education initiative and the union dues measure.

Khoury said the state needs to find a new way to ensure non-English speakers are fully integrated into society.

Calvert expressed confidence that voters would send him back to Washington next year for a fourth term.

Over the next 18 months, Calvert said, he expects Congress to focus on reform of the tax code and the Internal Revenue Service.

Lawmakers are most likely to debate two alternatives: some version of a flat tax or elimination of the income tax entirely in favor of a consumption tax on goods and services.

“The (tax) code has over the years become redundant and broken and it’s time that we really scrap that code and move into a better system of taxation,” Calvert said.

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