LOS ANGELES—Supporters of an English-first initiative endorsed by California’s voters say they’ll now try to eliminate bilingual education, welfare applications and driver’s tests.
The only state services that should be available in other languages are public health, safety and justice, Republican Assemblyman Frank Hill, a leader in the campaign for Proposition 63, said Wednesday.
Proposition 63, approved 73 percent to 27 percent on Tuesday, declares the state must do nothing to diminish the role of English.
“I believe we tapped into deep, deep feelings of resentment that voters have against immigrants who they perceive as being unwilling to learn English,” said Stanley Diamond, chairman of California English, which sponsored the initiative.
Suporters of Proposition 63 are expected to target the state’s bilingual education legislation, scheduled to expire next year.
“We’re going to get away from teaching in the native language,” Hill said. “We’re going to teach ’em in English.”However, state schools chief Bill Honig said Wednesday he believes Proposition 63 doesn’t endanger bilingual education.
State education officials cited a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that students who do not speak English well must be offered special assistance, including instruction if necessary, in their native language.
Hill also said he expects to see “a whole lot of bills” to eliminate multilingual state applications.
“If we’re not successful _ and we might not be because the Legislature is still controlled by liberals _ then we’ll package them all together, go back to our network of 60,000 volunteers, put it on the ballot and pass it over the heads of the Legislature,”he said.
J. William Orozco, a Proposition 63 supporter, said school notices in his hometown of Alhambra are sent to parents in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.
“That should be stopped,” he said. “If you continue to put crutches under people, they’re never going to learn English.”Under federal law, bilingual ballots must be made available in counties where 5 percent or more of the population does not speak English, such as is the case in 10 California counties.
Proposition 63 allows anyone doing business in California to sue if state officials do anything to diminish the role of English. John Trasvina, an attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said his group would counter any suit.
“They’ll have to prove bilingual programs diminish or ignore English, and we’ll argue they ultimately enhance English,”Trasvina said.