PITTSBURG COMMUNITY activist Ruben Rosalez appeared on BayTV last week and squared off with Ron Unz, the author of 1998’s Proposition 227.

The two appeared on Michael Krasney’s show, “Take Issue” and discussed the ramifications of the proposition that dismantled bilingual education programs in California classrooms.

The measure specified that students should be taught English through the “immersion” approach, receiving all their instruction in their new language.

Rosalez, co-chair of a Pittsburg parents’ group that champions the rights of limited-English-speaking students, told Unz that, under the right circumstances, bilingual instruction can work.

Pittsburg Unified has not made a smooth transition to English immersion, he said. That was made evident by state and federal investigations this past year, he said, adding that children with poor English skills are floundering in the classroom.

“We’re hurting,” Rosalez told Unz. “I’m not just saying that because it’s my opinion. We’ve had state and federal investigators come in and find violations.

“Either we educate these kids now or we deal with them later and educate them as adults.”

Unz countered that English immersion can work. He pointed to the Oceanside Unified School District in San Diego, where test scores have skyrocketed since the passage of Prop. 227.

Unz noted that Oceanside’s superintendent, Ken Noonan, was at one time a big proponent of bilingual education but has made a commitment to make English immersion work.

Supporting programs is one area where Rosalez and Unz came to an agreement. “Any program needs to have fiscal and administrative support,” Rosalez said. “The problem in Pittsburg is that there’s no program. The kids are not getting the services.

“I think if you have a bilingual education program that’s supported by administration and spending, it can succeed.”

Rosalez said that, after the broadcast, he and Unz continued their discussion. The end result is that Unz, a former candidate for governor, was receptive to visiting Pittsburg Unified in the future.

“We talked for about an hour after the show,” Rosalez said. “He’s an interesting guy. He admitted to me that he doesn’t know too much about Pittsburg’s situation and would like to come and talk to the students at some point.”

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