Teachers in Santa Clara County’s largest school district have added their voice to the list of education associations opposing a statewide initiative to eliminate most bilingual programs in classrooms.
The San Jose Teachers Association voted 707 to 391 to oppose Proposition 227, the English for the Children Initiative, backed by Silicon Valley businessman Ron Unz, said association President Mari Jo Pokriots. The initiative, which is on the June 2 ballot, would eliminate most bilingual programs and place students who speak little or no English in a one-year English immersion class before putting them in mainstream English classes.
Pokriots said the vote was the first time in recent memory that SJTA members chose to take a stand on a statewide proposition, but teachers in the district felt strongly that the union should go on record opposing the measure.
“San Jose Teachers Association is opposed to the Unz Initiative, and we are going to work to defeat it,” Pokriots said.
Added Ana Maria Velasco, a fourth-grade teacher at River Glen, San Jose Unified’s two-way Spanish-English immersion program: “We really wanted to make sure our union took a stand and restated the fact that (Proposition 227) will impact all teachers and all students. It’s a poorly written initiative.”
Several of San Jose Unified’s schools offer bilingual programs where students are taught in their native language while learning English. In addition, the district offers a two-way immersion Spanish magnet program at River Glen School, where English- and Spanish-speaking students are taught both languages.
The San Jose teachers join several other public bodies throughout the county that have passed resolutions opposing Proposition 227. Trustees in San Jose Unified as well at the Santa Clara County Office of Education have passed resolutions opposing the Unz Initiative as have the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the San Jose City Council.
The California Teachers Association, the umbrella group of the San Jose Teachers Association, also voted to oppose the initiative.