A day after polls showed the likely passage of Proposition 227, about 100 parents, teachers and students marched in downtown Mountain View to protest the statewide ballot measure, which would ban most bilingual education for California students.

“We have a hundred people here who haven’t given up,” said organizer Brian Buntz, a bilingual teacher at Graham Middle School. “We’re just trying to take one more stab at . . . educating people: What we have with bilingual education is hundreds of programs, some that work and some that don’t. We need to improve what works . . . not throw the baby out with the bath water.”

The Friday evening march from Graham Middle School to Rengstorff Park echoed a similar protest two weeks ago in San Jose that was organized by the San Jose Teachers Association.

Along noisy El Camino Real, the marchers, mostly from Graham, waved American and California flags, chanting “Si se puede” (yes, we can) as passing motorists honked in support.

Fierce debate

Written by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz, Proposition 227 would require all public school instruction to take place in English. Students not fluent in English would spend about a year in intensive “sheltered English immersion” and then be moved into regular classrooms. Parents who want bilingual instruction could seek waivers under certain circumstances.

The proposition has sparked fierce debate over the merits of bilingual education in a state where 1.4 million students speak limited English or none at all. And the campaigns on both sides are well-financed, with millions of dollars being spent on television and radio commercials in both English and Spanish.

Two points of view

Backers say bilingual education in California has failed, pointing to lower academic achievement among students in those programs. Opponents of the measure contend it would harm students, provides no way of evaluating English-only instruction and destroys communities’ power to determine their children’s education.

“I think (Proposition 227) is bad because it would only give (kids) one year to learn English,” said Christina Castillo, whose eighth-grade daughter, Esmerelda, attended bilingual classes because the family spoke mostly Spanish at home. One year wouldn’t have been enough for her daughter, Castillo said.

Another mother, Bertila Madrigal, said in Spanish that she wanted her son Eric, 7, to learn subjects in his native language until his English improved.

A Field Poll released Thursday showed that while support for Proposition 227 has eroded over the past month, the measure still enjoys strong backing, with 61 percent saying they would vote for it, 33 percent opposed and the rest undecided. At Graham Middle School, about 26 percent of the 823 students are considered “limited-English-proficient,” said Kathi Lilga, administrative assistant to the Mountain View School District superintendent.

The district board opposes Proposition 227, Lilga said, but hasn’t yet evaluated how Graham students and the district’s other 900 limited-English students will be affected if the measure passes.

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