SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Proposition 227, which requires all children be taught in English, has thrown the world of many California educators into chaos.
Teachers, administrators and school districts have been given 60 days to implement an initiative designed to dismantle bilingual education in the state.
"It’s a very difficult task when you’re walking in the wilderness without any guidance," Jackie Fox-Ruby of the California Federation of Teachers said Friday. "You cannot just ask people to walk into a classroom 49 days from today … and expect a program to work," she said.
There are no guidelines, regulations, textbooks, classroom materials, curriculum or lesson plans exist on how to translate the initiative from the ballot box to the state’s 9,000 public schools, educators say.
"There’s tremendous confusion in the field and great apprehension at this time as to how we’re going to deal with this," said Vicki Barber, president of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association.
The state Board of Education began the arduous task Friday of replacing a 30-year-old program that teaches 1.4 million public schoolchildren in their native languages as a transition to English.
"All of us recognize the significance of what we’re doing today and the impact it will have on children throughout California," said Robert Trigg, the board’s vice-president.
Proposition 227, approved June 2, would place limited-English speakers in a one-year immersion program. Parents can ask that their child be placed in bilingual classes, but only under limited conditions. The measure provides $50 million each year for 10 years of tutoring.
"We’re talking about something dramatically different that has to be fired up by the fall," said Justo Robles of the California Teachers Association.
Representatives of the state’s teachers, administrators and school boards urged the board to proceed with "calm deliberation" and avoid quickly writing new rules to replace ones repealed by voters. Proposition 227 gives school districts 60 days to implement the policy.
"The danger is that we hastily design a program to implement a hastily and poorly designed initiative," said Davis Campbell, executive director of the California School Boards Association. "We need time."
Many speakers asked for flexibility and a delay in implementing the measure. Synchronizing the school year with the fiscal year would give districts a July 1, 1999, deadline, several speakers said.
But the board declined on Friday to consider requests from local school districts to waive provisions of Proposition 227. The state Legislature’s lawyers had ruled that the board could not issue waivers.
"Turning away these waiver requests is hard on us, but 61 percent of the people voted for Proposition 227," said board member Gerti Thomas.
The denial of waivers left the future of dual-language immersion programs in doubt. Unlike mainstream bilingual education — where immigrant children are taught primarily in their first language, and English is gradually introduced — dual immersion requires students to build on instruction in both languages.
Proposition 227 backers said dual-language immersion programs would be allowed under the initiative through the waiver process. Board members said they intended to explore other avenues to preserve the programs.
A lawsuit seeking to overturn the measure was filed in federal court the day after the primary. A hearing is scheduled for July 15 in San Francisco.
Many educators appeared to be grappling with a philosophical change the measure has forced upon them.
"The message it sent out there removed one important dimension of learning, and that is language," said Robles, who arrived in this country at the age of 9 unable to speak English.
Fox-Ruby said: "Education is about a lot more than just learning English."