Coalition Opposes California English-only Initiative

SAN FRANCISCO–Asian Pacific Americans for Educational Equality, a coalition of Asian Pacific Americans, officially announced its formation and launched its campaign against the “English for the Children” initiative this week.

The coalition, which represents over 70 APA leaders, organizations, teachers, parents, administrators, and activists, hopes to make it clear to the Asian American community that implementing Ron Unz’s initiative will severely hamper non-English speaking students’ ability to learn.

“Our community has a lot to lose if the Unz initiative passes,” said Lisa Lim, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, adding that 20 percent of all bilingual education classes in California are conducted in an Asian language.

A primary goal of the coalition is to educate the Asian American community and reverse the recent numbers of a Field Poll that showed that Asians overwhelmingly support ending current bilingual education programs.

The latest Field Poll, released this week, surveyed 729 registered voters and found that 70 percent of Asians were in favor of ending current bilingual education programs, while 10 percent were opposed.

The highly controversial “English for the Children” initiative, authored by Silicon Valley millionaire Ron Unz, will appear on this June’s ballot as Proposition 227, according to the California secretary of state’s office.

The measure, if passed, will substitute current bilingual education programs across the state with one-year immersion programs taught in English only.

Lim credits the jump in numbers to the immense publicity Unz has garnered on the initiative.

“The Unz folks are definitely doing as much publicity as they can for their initiative,” Lim said. “On the surface it sounds good to immigrants who want their children to learn English, but once people understand what the impact will be on students, they won’t be as quick to support it.”

Despite the results, Lim warned that most polls typically tend to under sample minority groups in surveys.

“That 20 point shift could represent only one individual,” Lim said. “It’s hard to tell what the statistical significance is if you have a small pool to deal with.”

Field Poll officials were not able to say how many Asian Americans were surveyed overall, but added that approximately 5 to 6 percent of all voters in California are Asian American.

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