Garcia slams panel's Prop. 227 ruling

Superintendent objects to state board's refusal of all waivers.

Fresno Unified’s top official says the state Board of Education acted illegally Friday when it refused to allow Fresno schools and five other districts to continue offering bilingual instruction.

Superintendent Carlos A. Garcia said the board’s blanket refusal to waive provisions of Proposition 227 amounted to a violation of parents’ rights.

The anti-bilingual education proposition approved by California voters in June allowed for waivers if parents requested them, Garcia said.

“I can’t understand how they (refuse) all waivers when there are provisions in 227 to allow waivers,” Garcia said after the vote Friday.

Saying it must obey “the people’s will,” the state board meeting in Sacramento decided it is not empowered to grant waivers allowing bilingual education to continue after Prop. 227 takes effect.

By a 6-0 vote, the board said it would not consider waiver requests by the six districts hoping to maintain their bilingual education programs rather than adopt the English-immersion approach mandated by the measure.

State officials said parents will have the right to pursue individual waivers to the English-immersion mandate.

Blanket waivers had been requested by districts in Fresno, Fremont, San Jose, Hayward, Oakland and Berkeley. A seventh, in San Francisco, has vowed to continue offering traditional bilingual education despite the successful initiative, which could take effect by the fall semester.

“Turning away these waiver requests is hard, but 61% of the people voted for Prop. 227,” said state board member Gerti Thomas. “That’s the will of the people.”

But Garcia said a blanket refusal to grant waivers violates the proposition.

“They should at least consider them one-by-one,” he said.

The state action was opposed by about 50 bilingual education supporters who were not allowed to address the board until after the vote.

“I’m very disappointed in you guys,” said Fresno teacher Laura Garcia. She called Prop. 227 “a form of language genocide.”

Marlon Foxworth, superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District, was also given one minute to speak — after the fact.

“In Hayward, we have some (bilingual education) programs that are profoundly sound,” he said. “Now, we have to get rid of them. (The result) will be an increase in dropouts from school.”

Bill Lucia, the board’s executive director, said Friday’s meeting was not a public hearing, so there was no requirement for public comments.

The board received differing legal opinions on its power to grant waivers. A deputy legislative counsel and the board’s own lawyer said the panel lacks the authority to grant such waivers. But Michael Hersher, general counsel of the state Department of Education, said the board did have such power.

Representatives of the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers had sought a delay in implementing the ballot measure.

“You can’t just ask people to walk into a classroom 49 days from today . . . and expect a program to work,” said Jacki Fox Ruby of the California Federation of Teachers.

A separate battle over Prop. 227 is being played out in the courts, where opponents have filed a suit to block its implementation.

Edgar Sanchez of the Sacramento Bee contributed to this article.

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