Senate OKs Compromise On Education Programs

The Senate on Thursday passed a compromise measure to revive a handful of special education programs after the bill was stripped of bilingual education to enhance its chances of becoming law.

The legislation, by Assemblywoman Teresa P. Hughes (D-Los Angeles), was amended in a two-house legislative conference committee after advocates of bilingual education programs bowed to political realities and agreed to leave the program out of the measure.

The bill cleared the upper house on a 30-5 vote and awaits final action in the Assembly, where its fate is uncertain.

During Senate floor debate, Sen. Dan McCorquodale (D-San Jose) complained that the compromise measure would save special education programs, including those for gifted children and American Indian students, at the expense of bilingual education programs.

‘Needs Help’

“You save the brightest child, the child that is Native American . . . (but) the one who is bilingual, who needs help and needs assistance, we’ll sacrifice,” McCorquodale said.

Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) defended the bill, saying bilingual education was dropped for “purely political” reasons.

Hart blamed Gov. George Deukmejian for vetoing earlier legislation to restore the state bilingual education program and for threatening not to renew other so-called categorical programs if bilingual programs remained in the bill.

“We are faced again with a choice of whether or not we are going to allow the other programs . . . to have the kind of rationale and direction from the state that we feel is important or let them twist in the wind, along with bilingual education,” Hart said. “A judgment was made that three-quarters of a loaf was better than no loaf at all.”

The bill would reactivate for four years the Miller-Unruh reading program, which provides money to school districts with economically disadvantaged students; the School Improvement Program, which provides planning grants; the Native American Education program, and economic assistance to large inner-city school systems.

The measure would also extend for five years special education programs for gifted, talented and handicapped students.

Without a statewide program, Hart said advocates of bilingual education are using federal law and court rulings to urge local school districts to maintain instruction for non-English-speaking students. The Los Angeles district and many others have continued to operate bilingual programs without guidance from the state.

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