State's Largest Teacher Union Voices Discontent With Bilingual Ed

LOS ANGELES—The state’s largest local teachers union has approved a referendum urging a shift from bilingual education to a policy immersing limited-English students in classes taught in English, union officials said.

The informal vote by the United Teachers-Los Angeles has signaled discontent about the state’s bilingual education program, officials said.

The vote was intended to send a message to the public “that a great many educators have concerns about the bilingual approach,” said Sally Peterson, president of Learning English Advocates Drive.

With about a third of the union’s 21,000 members voting, 78 percent cast ballots in favor of the referendum sponsored by the LEAD group, said Ms. Peterson, a Los Angeles elementary school teacher.

The vote, conducted by mail last week and tabulated Tuesday night, will have no direct effect on the district, union and district officials said.

Union President Wayne Johnson said the vote was not a referendum on bilingual education per se, but on the “punitive” way administrators have imposed bilingual education programs.

The LEAD group includes many teachers who said the Los Angeles school district has threatened to reassign them to non-bilingual classes because they have refused to learn a second language.

About 100 district teachers have refused to sign a waiver that requires them to take language instruction in return for keeping their bilingual classroom assignments.

Bilingual teachers in Los Angeles receive an extra $2,000 a year and are required to work an extra 2 1/2 hours a week after school.

About 6,400 teachers are assigned to bilingual classrooms, but just 2,100 are fully certified bilingual instructors, officials said.

In order to become fully certified, teachers who are on bilingual waivers must complete required courses in foreign language, methodology and culture on their own time and at their own expense.

New teachers must agree to meet bilingual certificate requirements. However, the shortage of qualified instructors, particularly Spanish-speaking teachers, forced the district to recruit this year in Mexico City and Madrid.

Ms. Peterson she is not advocating “simple immersion” in English but would approve of limited translation help by either a bilingual aide or the instructor.



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