Bilingual education change a good one

WHEN the state Board of Education decided last week to lift mandates on bilingual education, giving the control back to local school boards, the biggest losers just might have been the supporters of Proposition 227.

Proposition 227 is an initiative which would require most students with limited English skills to be taught predominately in English. Basically, it does away with our current system, but more significantly, takes away local control of the issue.

The board’s decision, coming on the heels of a state court ruling supporting individual districts’ decision not to offer bilingual programs after the bilingual mandates expired in 1987, may take the steam out of Proposition 227. Essentially, what the state board has done is to create a compromise, one we think is the right answer.

That answer is local control — allowing individual school boards to decide what they think is best for their students.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren, who had not taken an official position on Proposition 227, this week described the initiative as a “straitjacket for local school districts.” He, too, is concerned over the loss of local control, and with the state Board of Education’s decision, he is said to be leaning against Proposition 227.

If Lungren takes an official stance against the proposition, it could be the beginning of the end to the initiative’s strong lead in polls.

We see plenty wrong with this initiative, which was crafted out of the fear of a growing immigrant population. It is the same atmosphere that created Proposition 187, which targeted welfare for immigrants, and Proposition 209, which dismantled affirmative action programs in the state.

California’s diversity is so wide that no “one-size-fits-all” bilingual education program can work. Certainly, there are areas where it is not as essential as in others. And that’s where local control is needed.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that all supporters of Proposition 227 are white Anglo-Saxons. Many Hispanics complain that their children have been automatically put into bilingual programs which they consider inferior to English-only programs. Now those parents can take their objections to their local school boards for consideration.

As it stands now, according to recent polls, Proposition 227 would pass easily. But with the state’s recent action, along with court rulings to back it up, maybe California’s voting public will see the state action as the compromise it is, allowing local school districts to decide what programs they will institute.

Proposition 227 would take away local control, much the same way the state mandates did. And that’s the fundamental flaw with the initiative.

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