L.A. Parents Protest Teachers' Bid To Halt Bilingual Program

About 50 mostly Latino parents from across the Los Angeles school district marched in front of a Sun Valley elementary school Tuesday to protest efforts by a group of teachers seeking to end the district’s bilingual education plan.

Parents marching at Glenwood School said they support continuation of the district’s plan to teach children academic subjects in their native languages while they learn English. Most of the parents in the protest belong to bilingual education advisory committees from different areas of the district.

Many parents carried signs criticizing Sally Peterson, a kindergarten teacher at Glenwood who founded a 2-year-old organization called Learning English Advocates Drive. The LEAD group, which favors having teachers speak English to foreign-language students while the youngsters learn the language, is engaged in promoting a union vote to refuse a salary bonus for bilingual teachers.

“We are against what the LEAD group is doing,” said Hortensia Lopez, past chairwoman of a district bilingual committee. “We should be encouraging people to become bilingual, to share and borrow from each other’s culture.”

Members of United Teachers-Los Angeles, the union representing most of the district’s 32,000 teachers, received ballots in the mail last week. The ballots ask whether the union should refuse the district bonus offered to certificated bilingual teachers.

The district has offered to pay those teachers bonuses of up to $5,000 a year. The ballots are expected to be counted by the first week in May.

District officials say the bonus is essential to attracting and keeping qualified bilingual teachers to teach the more than 160,000 mostly Latino students who speak little or no English.

But Peterson said the extra pay is unfair. “A monolingual teacher and a bilingual teacher do the same amount of work,” she said. Teachers do not need to speak more than English to teach foreign-language students, she said.

Peterson also said the referendum against the district’s bonus-pay offer was originally conceived by UTLA leaders who approached her group about it in June. UTLA President Wayne Johnson helped draft the original referendum, she said.

Union Vice President Frances Haywood denied that UTLA leaders had come up with the referendum idea. Johnson, who could not be reached for comment on Peterson’s contention, has spoken out against the LEAD effort and has sent letters to the union’s 22,000 members urging them to vote against the referendum.

Paula Scott, a bilingual first-grade teacher at Glenwood, said Peterson and other LEAD members at the school are hurting parents and students.

“The message to children from the English-only teachers is, ‘Leave your useless Spanish behind and learn the more important and more valued English,’ ” Scott said.

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