Governor Favors Bilingual Education---With Changes

BAKERSFIELD—Gov. George Deukmejian, who last week vetoed an extension of the state’s bilingual education programs, predicted Saturday that bilingual instruction would survive beyond this school year — but with modifications acceptable to Republicans.

“I would guess that the bilingual education program would continue in California, but I would also expect that there would probably be some reforms to it,” Deukmejian told reporters while campaigning in the Central Valley.

The Republican governor said he believes bilingual education “has been effective for the most part” in teaching English to non-English-speaking students. But he complained that changes in the program proposed by Republican lawmakers had been given “short shrift” by the Legislature’s Democratic majority. Bilingual education teaches English to students while giving them instruction in other subjects in their native language. With the state’s bilingual education law set to expire in June, Deukmejian vetoed a bill Tuesday by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) that would have granted a five-year extension to the program. The bill would also have made a number of changes in the laws that were sought by educators.

In vetoing the measure, Deukmejian cited a legal limit on spending that may inhibit state expenditures next year and called for a review of dozens of special education programs, including bilingual instruction, to determine whether they are cost-effective.

Discussing bilingual education publicly for the first time since his veto, Deukmejian told reporters: “I think that it has been effective for the most part. I think that if it is used for assisting people initially to learn the English language, it can be effective.”

The governor, however, declined to specify what changes he would like to see incorporated in legislation next year to extend the program.

“There were a number of reforms that were proposed by Republican legislators, and I was informed by their leadership that these suggestions they made were given short shrift,” Deukmejian said. “There really wasn’t much consideration given to them whatsoever. And so I will be working with them.”

GOP legislators have proposed lifting the requirement that a school must create a bilingual class whenever there are 10 or more students in one grade who speak the same foreign language. They also favor eliminating the requirement that bilingual classrooms have at least one-third English-speaking students, a provision designed to avoid segregation of non-English speakers.

But supporters of Brown’s bill, including the California School Boards Assn., have protested that such proposals would effectively gut the state’s bilingual education program.

By vetoing the measure, Deukmejian guaranteed that the minority Republican legislators will have a strong hand in shaping whatever bilingual education legislation is approved next year. In order to enact an extension so close to the expiration date of the program, the Legislature would have to pass an urgency bill, which requires a two-thirds vote.

Deukmejian was in Bakersfield to speak at a political fund-raiser and later pick up the endorsement of the California State Firemen’s Assn. at its state convention.

Now that he has finished action on legislation for the year, the governor said he is eager to hit the campaign trail in his race for reelection against Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.

“My juices are flowing. My Adrenalin is running high, and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “We’re going to carry this fight, this campaign, very vigorously in the time remaining.”

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