Produced by MALDEF
(September 19, 1997)
Ron Unz filed the English-only education initiative (the "Unz initiative") with the California Attorney General's Office on May 9, 1997. On June 26, 1997, the Attorney General's Office issued a proposed title and summary, permitting the proponents to begin collecting signatures to qualify the initiative for the June 1998 ballot. Mr. Unz, a multimillionaire software developer from the Silicon Valley, is personally underwriting much of the campaign to qualify the initiative. Mr. Unz is a former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost to Pete Wilson in the 1994 GOP primary. Mr. Unz recruited as co-author of the initiative Gloria Matta Tuchman, a first grade teacher and former national board member of U.S. English, the leading supporter of English-only and official English policies in the United States. The initiative calls for the virtual abolition of language development programs in California that are currently serving 1.3 million public school students who are limited English proficient.
Article 1. Findings and Declarations
A. English as the National Public Language
The Unz initiative proclaims that English is important because it is the national public language of the United States. The initiative also states that English is the leading world language for science, technology and international business, and is therefore the language of economic opportunity.
English is indisputably the national public language of the United States. Proficiency in English plainly brings with it significant benefits. No educator of any prominence disputes these truisms. However, learning English alone -without more -- will not provide access to economic opportunities. Children's opportunities for excelling in science, technology, government, or domestic and international business depend not only on these keystone language skills but also on mastering such subjects as math, science, history, and civics. Bilingual education and the other English language development techniques eliminated by the initiative are designed to teach children English while ensuring that they are not deprived of the opportunity to learn other essential academic skills.
Immigrant parents, like all parents regardless of background, want their children to participate in the American dream of economic opportunity and social advancement. Not surprisingly, all immigrant parents in the United States are eager to have their children master the English language. But immigrant parents, like all parents, want their children also to have meaningful access to and the opportunity to learn and to excel in the other core academic subjects taught in school.
The underlying issue here is the question of how quickly young children can learn another language such as English. The overwhelming majority of
limited-English children enter California schools at 5 or 6. Bilingual
theorists claim that it takes seven years for a child that age to become fluent
in a new language, and if this were the case, a child would indeed require
native language instruction for years in academic subjects during the lengthy
process of learning English. Fortunately, bilingual theorists are out of touch
with reality, and all available scientific evidence as well as common sense
indicates that young children can learn new languages very quickly and easily,
in just a few months. This simple fact destroys the entire logical basis for
bilingual education. Since academic instruction for 5 and 6 year-olds is
minimal, they will lose almost nothing if they spend their first few months in
school concentrating on learning English, then can be moved into regular
classrooms with the other children once they have become reasonably fluent in
B. Constitutional Duty to Educate all Children
The Unz initiative declares that public schools have a constitutional duty as well as a moral obligation to provide all children with the skills necessary to become productive members of society. The initiative states that literacy in the English language is among the most important of these skills.
Literacy in English is without a doubt a necessary and important skill that all children in California should acquire. However, a child's right to an education means more than simply learning the English language. If language were the only important skill for children to acquire, our educational system would limit itself to teaching that skill alone. It does not because many other skills are important to future success. Limited English proficient (LEP) students should not be restricted from learning math, science, and other subjects that will prepare them to contribute to this society.
See Section A above.
C. Experimental Language Programs
The Unz initiative claims that California schools are wasting money on 'experimental" language programs that have failed, as demonstrated by "high drop out rates and low English literacy levels."
Bilingual education is not an "experimental" language program. Bilingual education programs have two main goals: (1) the rapid development of English language proficiency; and (2) the simultaneous development of academic skills. The success of well funded and properly implemented bilingual education programs is documented by reputable research. This research shows that primary language instruction does not impede acquisition of English. In fact, students with a strong academic background in their first language are more likely to
develop high levels of English proficiency than those who do not have such advantage. 2
Moreover, the initiative would not only bar bilingual education programs, but any other English-language development program that uses any amount of non-English language instruction. Currently, California's public schools use a wide range of approaches to English language development. Research is ongoing on the performance and proper implementation of these various approaches. Ironically, the Unz initiative - premised on the benefits of destroying any so called experimental language development programs - adopts and mandates the most unproven approach: sheltered English immersion. Sheltered English is far more "experimental" than bilingual education; it is the relative immaturity of the model that makes many researchers nervous.' In addition, research shows that limited English proficient students who are placed in immersion classrooms are in fact reclassified as English proficient at a lower rate than students who receive some primary language instruction.
Moreover, the Unz initiative's mandate to implement sheltered English demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the method. The initiative's definition of "sheltered English" is completely different from that used by the Department of Education and researchers. Sheltered English is meant to be a step in English language development in which intermediate level English learners are brought up to the speed of a mainstream English classroom before transitioning from bilingual to mainstream classes. It is not meant to serve as the only source of English language development. Reputable research shows that it takes three or more years to become sufficiently fluent in English to participate fully in an English-taught school curriculum.
The initiative's findings are premised on unfounded allegations. California compiles no drop-out or English literacy data for limited English proficient students. Drop-out rates are reported by ethnicity, not language. The only available indication of English ability for limited English proficient students is redesignation as fluent English proficient. Since fluent English proficient redesignation is not broken down by program type, redesignation is not an accurate indicator of bilingual education's or any other program's success or failure.
currently, only 30.2 percent of the limited English proficient students in California's schools are enrolled in language development programs that use native language instruction.
"Bilingual education" programs have been widespread in California for twenty or
thirty years. After all these years, California's "bilingual education" lobby
and administration can point to no evidence that these programs have ever been
successful anywhere in the state on a large scale, and there is considerable
evidence that they have been a failure. For example, of all the
limited-English children in California, Spanish-speaking children are the most
likely to be given the "benefit" of bilingual programs. Yet of all the
limited-English children, Spanish-speaking children are the ones with the
highest dropout rates, the lowest academic test scores, and the lowest rate of
admission to college. Whether "bilingual education" should still be called an
experimental program after thirty years of use is a matter of opinion; what is
not a matter of opinion is that it is a complete failure. "Sheltered English
immersion" is simply the formal name for teaching English by teaching English,
and there is considerable evidence that it is much more successful than
"bilingual education." Furthermore, under the initiative teachers will still
be allowed some use of a child's native language, although most of the
instruction must be in English.
D. Acquisition of English
The Unz initiative also states that young children can easily acquire full fluency in the English language if they are heavily exposed to that language in the classroom at an early age.
The initiative disregards the importance of developing other academic skills and focuses exclusively on acquisition of the English language. Non-English speakers and limited English proficient students cannot learn the content of subjects that are being taught in a language they have not yet mastered. If acquiring skills in math, science and other core subjects were not important, schools could simply eliminate all other subjects, leaving only language instruction for all young children. In fact, children are learning skills in all of the core subject areas at a young age because educators increasingly recognize the importance of an early foundation in all subject matters.
See Section A above.
Article 2: English Language Education
The Unz initiative mandates that schools use only English to teach academic subjects to all students. The initiative only permits teaching English to children who are not proficient in the language through "sheltered English immersion" for a period "normally" not to exceed one year. The initiative also permits schools to place in the same classroom children of similar English proficiency level, regardless of age or grade level. In addition, the initiative encourages schools to mix in the same classroom English learners from different native-language groups. Finally, the initiative calls for retention of all current supplemental funding for English learners.
a. Teach English through teaching in English
The initiative's "one size fits all" approach will restrict school districts' ability to implement effective programs. Current regulations provide school districts with several options among English language development programs, including 'English as a second language,' "maintenance bilingual education," "sheltered English," "submersion," and "transitional," among others. (See Cal. Educ. Code ß 52163)1. The current programs, all of which have as their main goal effectively and efficiently developing English fluency in each child, recognize the necessity to structure programs to meet the needs of students who are at different levels in their acquisition of English proficiency.
Additionally, the initiative's affirmative encouragement of mixing non-English speaking children of different native-languages without requiring the teacher to have any special training, will restrict the children's ability to learn effectively. Such unrestricted mixing would make it difficult for a teacher to be able to communicate with children of various languages. Currently, English language development courses generally are structured to have either a teacher or teaching assistant in the classroom who understands and can communicate with children in their native language. The initiative's encouragement of mixing children of different native-languages may mean a child will not be able to communicate with anyone in the classroom. Moreover, even where a teacher or aide speaks a child's native language, the initiative prohibits communication with the child in that language. This approach of immersion is guaranteed to trigger feelings of isolation, and creates a true "sink-or-swim" environment for young children.
Mixing together children from different language groups with the same degree
of English fluency reinforces to those children the importance that they
quickly learn English, the common means of communication. Also, it is
beneficial that children become acquainted at a young age with children from
other ethnic backgrounds rather than spend years interacting only with children
from their own ethnicity, as is the case today under "bilingual education"
b. Place in same classroom children of different ages
The initiative's proposal to place non-English speaking children of all ages and grades together is not conducive to learning. Children pass through age-based developmental stages regardless of what language they speak; that is why grade specific classrooms were established once school populations permitted it. There is no pedagogically sound justification for placing children of vastly differing ages and maturity levels in one classroom. Older and younger children would both suffer from such placement. Because the appropriate learning material for all subjects differs by grade, mixing of too many grade levels also ensures that no instruction whatsoever in subjects other than English could ever occur under the initiative's immersion approach.
The initiative in no way suggests or encourages that children of differentages be placed together in the same classroom, and since most English-learners
enter school at 5 or 6, this would rarely be necessary. However, under
circumstances under which there is just a handful of older children learning
English at a school, it is reasonable to allow the school to teach them English
together in one classroom, even if they are of somewhat different ages.
c. No standards for teacher - no measurement of effectiveness
Equally problematic is the absence of any requirement for teacher training or assessment of student progress. The only mention of standards for teachers is that teaching personnel possess a good knowledge of the English language. This is in contrast to current law, requiring that the State Department of Education conduct appropriate training for bilingual education teachers and set minimum standards for teacher qualifications. (Cal. Educ. Code ßß 52182, 52183).s
In addition, the Unz initiative does not provide for any method of measuring the program's effectiveness. The initiative calls for educating English learners through "sheltered English immersion" during a temporary one-year period and then transferring students to mainstream English-only classrooms regardless of any particular student's progress or success in acquiring mastery of English. Currently, under 5 Cal. Code Regs. ß 431 1, school districts with English learners must assess those students' academic progress annually.
The initiative is written with the notion that English language development programs have not been held accountable for immigrant students' progress. Yet, the initiative displaces current standards for "bilingual education" teachers and enacts no substitute standards. The initiative also fails to provide an assessment mechanism for students' mastery of English through the immersion program. The initiative provides no mechanism whatsoever by which to evaluate the success of this experimental sheltered English immersion approach.
During the past thirty years, the "bilingual education" office of California's
Department of Education has never conducted an assessment of the effectiveness
of "bilingual" programs, and has never even gathered the data necessary for
such an assessment. There are many cases of Spanish-speaking students being
taught by Spanish-speaking teachers without proper teaching credentials or
college degrees or even any knowledge of the English language. Under the
initiative, all teachers of California schoolchildren will be properly
credentialed teachers, with college degrees and fluent in English.
d, One year limit on special instruction
The initiative's sheltered English immersion program for student's who are limited English proficient may violate federal law. In Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563, 566 (1974), the U.S. Supreme Court held, '[t]here is no equality of treatment merely by providing students with the same facilities, textbooks, teachers and curriculum; for students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education. " The initiative would only provide students who are English learners with one year "transitional" instruction. Even in the transitional course, the instruction would be exclusively through the medium of English. Such a program prohibits students who are English learners from participating meaningfully and equitably in the school curriculum, as required by federal law. The consequence of enforcing a state statute that violates federal law in this manner could include a total loss, currently in excess of $2 billion, of federal funding for education in the state.
This is utterly false. Lau v. Nichols only specified that limited-English
children be given some type of extra assistance and never required "bilingual
education." Furthermore, the decision was later clarified by the
9th Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers California) in Guadaloupe
v. Tempe (1978), which ruled in the clearest possible terms that "bilingual
education" was not required. There is no basis whatsoever for arguing that the
initiative violates federal law.
Article 3: Parental Exceptions
The Unz initiative permits parents to request "waiver" out of the requirement of English-only instruction. To secure a waiver, the parent must apply in writing, annually and in person, at the school. However, a parent cannot apply for a waiver unless the child meets any of three narrowly defined exceptions: (1) the child already knows English and scores above average for his/her grade level in standardized tests of English vocabulary, comprehension, reading and writing, or scores above the 5th grade average, whichever is lower; (2) the child is over 10 years old and the principal and school staff believe another program would be better for the child to acquire basic English language skills; (3) the child has (a)"special physical, emotional, psychological, or educational needs"; (b) the child has spent at least 30 days each year in the main English-only classroom; (c) a written description of the special needs is submitted; and (d) the school superintendent approves.
After a parent satisfies all of these requirements, the child "may" be transferred to closes using bilingual education or some other form of English language development or other instruction prohibited by the initiative. If there we 20 or more students in the same grade who are granted a waiver, the school must provide an alternative program; if not, the student must be allowed to transfer to a school that provides such a program.
The Unz initiative gives school districts unlimited discretion to approve or deny waivers, without providing any standards for denial or providing any appeal procedure from a district's refusal to grant a waiver. The complicated requirements to qualify for one of the three narrowly defined waivers assures that only a very limited number of parents would even apply for a waiver. Additionally, even if a parent satisfies these requirements, the initiative provides districts with such unbounded discretion that the waiver could still be denied for any reason.
The initiative would eliminate the automatic parental choice provided under current law, which provides for parental choice and involvement without complicated procedural requirements. Specifically, state law now gives parents the right to request English-only instruction for their children regardless of the student's age or grade level and without requiring that the superintendent, school principal, or school staff grant permission. (See 5 Cal. Code Regs. ß 4308).
MALDEF is lying when it claims that today parents are allowed to choose
English immersion instead of "bilingual education" for their children. There
have been numerous cases of parents being forced to picket, protest, or boycott
in order to force California public schools to teach their children English.
The famous 1996 Latino Boycott against "bilingual education" at 9th
Street Elementary occurred just a few blocks from MALDEF's national
headquarters in Los Angeles, received extensive media coverage throughout
the nation, and inspired this initiative campaign. Yet MALDEF never lifted a
finger to help the parents extract their children from that "voluntary"
program, and apparently never even learned of the boycott's occurance.
a. Complicated procedures
The initiative basically requires that a parent (1) understand the complicated procedural requirements for a waiver; (2) be sufficiently literate to submit a written request; (3) have the time to go personally to the school. This procedure is even more burdensome on families who may have children in different schools. Assuming a parent can meet these requirements, the school still does not have to grant the waiver. Even if the school grants a waiver, there is no guarantee that a non-English-only course will be set up. The individual school does not have to offer a bilingual education class if there are not 20 or more waivers granted in the same grade level. Therefore, a school district, with unbounded discretion under the initiative, could arbitrarily limit waivers to 19 per grade, thus never being required to provide an alternative course. In such a district, even those parents who do obtain a waiver would have only one option - to transfer their child to a school that does offer the course. This may create a heavy burden on families with already limited resources. Given the initiative's rigid provisions, there is no guarantee that any school will offer bilingual education or other alternative English language development courses.
There is no requirement that the parents submit a written waiver request, only
that a written waiver request prepared by someone (perhaps MALDEF) be submitted
by the parents for children who are younger than 10. Nearly all
limited-English children are in school districts containing tens of thousands
or hundreds of thousands of students. If "bilingual education" is so utterly
unpopular that fewer than 20 parents in an entire district seek a waiver for
the program, it is unreasonable to require the district to offer such an
undesirable option (though they could still do so at their discretion). Under
normal circumstances, most districts might have one or more "bilingual" magnet
schools or magnet programs, drawing students from around the district whose
parents prefer that option.
b. Increased cost
The initiative requires that the current supplemental funding for English learners be maintained and further adds $50 million per year for English language tutoring. In addition, if there are 20 students who petition and are granted waivers, a school district will be required to run two programs, one for sheltered English immersion and the other for students who have waived out of the "mainstream" curriculum. The initiative's requirement of two separate programs coupled with the added $50 million per year may in fact be more costly than the current English language development programs. Therefore, even though the initiative alleges that the school districts are wasting money on the current English development programs, the initiative fails to save any money. In fact, the increased cost of two programs may provide a further disincentive for individual schools to ever grant waivers, at least never to grant 20 waivers in the same grade level.
Under the initiative, funding for limited-English children is maintained at
current levels. However, while under the current system of "bilingual
education" (in which they are taught almost no English) it generally requires 7
years for such children to learn English and be reclassified, under this
initiative they would be taught English immediately, and generally be moved
into regular classes in one year or less. Thus, the number of limited-English
children in the system at any given time will be just a tiny fraction of what
it is today, and hundreds of millions of dollars will be saved annually.
c. Elimination of parent involvement
The Unz initiative would eliminate required organizations and other measures that provide parents of children who are limited English proficient an opportunity for meaningful involvement in their children's education. Current educational law requires that school districts with more than 50 limited English proficient students form districtwide advisory committees. In addition, any school with more than 20 limited English proficient students must form a school advisory committee. The law specifically provides that parents of limited English proficient students must constitute a majority of the advisory committee membership. (See Cal. Educ. Code ßß 52176, 62002.5). The responsibility of the school advisory committees is to advise staff on development of a detailed master plan for instruction of English learners, and to assist in the development of a school needs assessment. All of these opportunities for sustained parental involvement in school decision-making would be shelved in favor of an onerous and individualized parental waiver procedure.
This is false. The initiative never eliminates parental advisory committees,
which can remain in operation and provide advice or do whatever they wish to
d. Restriction of foreign language instruction
A likely unintended, but nonetheless unavoidable, consequence of the Unz initiative is its application to all foreign language instruction. The plain language of the statute provides that all children in public schools shall be taught in English, with no waivers except as provided in the initiative. Therefore, the initiative will severely restrict the availability of foreign language courses. Foreign language courses necessary to fulfill college entrance requirements will only be offered if a student qualifies for and is granted a waiver under one of the three exceptions. Thus, parents who want their child to fulfill the college entrance requirement of foreign language must go through the onerous procedural requirements for a waiver under the Unz initiative. Moreover, a district could deny a waiver for any reason, thus denying access to a college preparatory curriculum. Amending the statute to eliminate or correct this flaw is virtually impossible. (See discussion below on "Severability and Amendment").
This is utter nonsense. Section 306(b) defines an English-language program as
one in which the language of instruction is "overwhelmingly" the English
language. Students who are taking one or two periods of foreign language
courses (such as French, Spanish, or German) are still "overwhelmingly" being
instructed in English, and require no parental waiver whatsoever.
e. Special education requirements
The initiative's exception applying to students with "special needs" is confusingly similar to the educational code's provisions for students with disabilities. The exception for students with special needs requires that even if a student has special physical, emotional, psychological or educational needs, the child must remain in the English-only class for no less than thirty days each year. If, in fact, the student has a disability, this severe restriction may conflict with the protections and rights afforded students with disabilities. (See Cal. Educ. Code ß 5603 1). The education code requires that students with disabilities receive an individualized assessment of their needs. The school district is then responsible for providing special education services and accommodations to these children designed to meet their unique needs. The Unz initiative's waiver provisions conflict with these rights of students with disabilities.
Because school administrators know of the requirements and the added costs of complying with these special education provisions, they may be reluctant to grant waivers under the initiative's exception because doing so would label a student as deserving of all of the services afforded those with "special needs." Therefore, a parent whose child is not a disabled child but who may otherwise qualify for a waiver under the "special needs" exception will have to overcome this confusion. In addition, the language of the exception requires that parents place a potentially stigmatizing label on their child in order to qualify for a waiver.
Section 311(c) of the initiative has absolutely nothing to do with students
with disabilities. It simply says that students whose parents can provide some
indication that "bilingual education" will benefit their children in some way
may be granted a waiver to receive "bilingual education." However, they must
at least try 30 days of an English immersion curriculum each year so that their
parents can judge and compare the two programs.
Article 4: Community-Based English Tutoring
The Unz initiative provides for $50,000,000 a year for teaching English to parents and other members of the community who pledge to tutor limited English proficient students.
There is no dispute that there is an urgent need for English language tutoring and teaching for both children and parents. However, the amount proposed is not sufficient to alleviate this need. It amounts to $1.20 each year for every Californian seeking to learn English. Furthermore, there is no indication of the source of the appropriated money. If the appropriation falls under the Proposition 98 education budget, the money would be shifted from other educational programs. Otherwise, the money will have to come from the budgets for other state services.
According to a preliminary analysis by the Legislative Analyst's office in
Sacramento, the funding would be considered Prop. 98 money. In any event, the
amount represents merely one tenth of one percent of California's current
spending on education, and would likely be dwarfed by the annual financial
savings accrued by the initiative.
Article 5: Legal Standing and Parental Enforcement
The Unz initiative holds personally liable for attorney's fees and damages any teacher, administrator, school board member, or other elected official who "willfully and repeatedly" refuses to implement the terms of the initiative.
The initiative calls for a unique intrusion of government into every classroom. Every parent of every child would be given legal standing to monitor and to sue a teacher personally if the teacher is not following an English-only curriculum.
In doing so, the initiative also singles out teachers and administrators for treatment different from other public employees. Currently, California law requires that a public entity pay judgments against employees for acts done during the course of their employment. (Cal. Gov't Code ß 825). In fact, the current educational code requires that the governing board of any school obtain liability insurance for members of the school board and employees against personal liability. (See Cal. Educ. Code ß 35208). The Unz initiative penalizes teachers and school officials by prohibiting this protection.
Holding teachers, administrators, and school board members personally liable will discourage individuals from pursuing careers in education. This would occur at a time when there is a high demand for teachers, particularly as class size reduction efforts expand. The Department of Education has announced that there is a current estimated need for 40,000 new teachers. Teachers would be particularly fearful of teaching non-English speaking children, because words in a language other than English could in fact violate the English-only requirement and lead to their being hauled into court. Discouraging teachers from teaching limited English proficient students through this perverse incentive hardly seems to comport with the aims of the initiative.
This is absolutely false. Section 320 merely states that teachers and
education officials who "repeatedly and willfully" refuse to obey the law and
allow parents the option of an English-language education for their schoolchild
can be sued by those parents. As defined in Section 306(b), speaking a little
Spanish in class doesn't mean an English-language education isn't being
provided, and the initiative sets a very high burden-of-proof for culpability.
However, teachers and officials who refuse to allow children to be taught
English can be sued by parents, and this is necessary to prevent these
individuals from refusing to obey the initiative.
Article 6 and 8: Severability and Amendment
The Unz initiative provides that should any section of the statute be held invalid, it may be severed from the remaining statute. The initiative also provides that any provision of the statute can only be amended by a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature or by approval of the voters.
Voters who favor some portions of the initiative but oppose others should recognize the extreme difficulty in eliminating offending portions of the initiative. The drafters have crafted an as-is, take-it-or-leave-it initiative that severely restricts the possibility of legislative change.
The current law requiring "bilingual education" for limited-English children
expired a decade ago, but remains in force because the politicians in
Sacramento have been deadlocked for ten straight years in trying to
renew, modify, or end the law. The only two real choices are supporting the
initiative and teaching English to young children in school, or supporting the
status quo and not allowing children to be taught English. Other proposals
have almost no chance of becoming a reality.
Article 7: Operative Date
The initiative delays the operative date for sixty days from the time it becomes effective.
The California Constitution provides that an initiative takes effect the day after it is enacted. Although the initiative calls for a sixty-day delay before completely eliminating bilingual education and other methods of English language development, this is still insufficient time to prevent disruption of limited English proficient students' educational progress.
Since our initiative has gathered enough signatures to qualify for the June
1998 ballot and seems very likely to pass, responsible school boards should
immediately begin making contingency plans for implementing the proposal at the
beginning of the September 1998 school year.
ERODES LOCAL CONTROL
The initiative strips local school boards, teachers, and parents of the power to choose an appropriate English language development (ELD) program and dictates one rigid instructional approach. Currently, any child may be placed in an English-only classroom whenever his or her parent requests it. The initiative adds a new complicated procedure that requires parents to apply in person to choose a different ELD program and satisfy one of the three following exceptions: (1) the child must be fluent in English at the fifth grade level; (2) the child must be over 10 years old and staff must agree that another program would be better; (3) the child must have special physical or emotional needs. In addition, the school must approve the request.
Parents do not currently have the option of an English-language education for
their children in actual practice. The proof is that parents have had to
picket, protest, and boycott to try to get their children out of Spanish-only
instruction. The anti-bilingual boycott by Latino parents at 9th
Street Elementary---which inspired the initiative---occurred just 8 blocks
from MALDEF's national headquarters and received national media coverage,
but MALDEF lawyers didn't raise a finger to help those parents or even
investigate the case.
CHILDREN OF DIFFERENT AGES
The initiative encourages schools to place children of different ages together such as ten and six-year olds in the same classroom for an entire year.
This is completely false. Nearly all the children learning English are 5 or
6, and would be taught English with children of their own age. Only in rare
cases would it be necessary to temporarily group together older children while
they are learning English, and that is no different than the current system.
* SUBSTITUTES "SINK OR SWIM" ENGLISH IMMERSION
The initiative only allows a child to be placed in an English immersion class for a period not to exceed one year before being transferred to classes taught in English-only. The English immersion classes do not permit assistance in the child's native language. In addition, the initiative is silent as to what academic instruction, if any, children who are placed in the English immersion classes will have.
[Sigma] SCAPEGOATS ENGLISH LEARNERS
It is a myth that bilingual education has a 95 percent failure rate. The truth is that only
30 percent of English learners are taught in bilingual education programs. The remaining 70 percent are in the type of English-only programs the initiative proposes. Singling-out bilingual education will not reform public schools.
Young children can learn English within a year, not the seven years required
by "bilingual education," and then be transferred to regular classes with the
other 5 or 6-year-olds. Under the current system, "bilingual education" is
mandatory but impossible to implement, so hundreds of thousands of children
really are in "sink-or-swim" classes. Our initiative replaces both "bilingual
education" and "sink-or-swim" with "sheltered English immersion."
(to previous two points)
DESTROYS OPPORTUNITIES TO BECOME BILINGUAL
Young children can learn English within a year, not the seven years required by "bilingual education," and then be transferred to regular classes with the other 5 or 6-year-olds. Under the current system, "bilingual education" is mandatory but impossible to implement, so hundreds of thousands of children really are in "sink-or-swim" classes. Our initiative replaces both "bilingual education" and "sink-or-swim" with "sheltered English immersion."
The initiative destroys the opportunity for children to become fluent in more than one language by prohibiting the speaking or teaching of languages other than English in the schools. Bilingualism opens doors to future economic opportunities.
Children who speak Spanish become bilingual by learning English, which is what
our initiative does. Currently, these children are taught almost no English,
preventing them from becoming bilingual.
PENALIZES TEACHERS AND EDUCATION OFFICIALS
The initiative authorizes lawsuits against teachers and education officials and holds them personally liable for damages if they do not follow the mandated English-only curriculum. The initiative thus creates an adversarial relationship between teachers and parents, and creates a strong disincentive to becoming a teacher, particularly a teacher of English learners.
This is nonsense. Section 320 states that teachers and education officials who
"repeatedly and willfully" refuse to obey the law and allow parents the option
of an English-language education for their children can be sued by those
parents. Today, parents have to picket schools in order to force the schools
to teach their children English, which is ridiculous.
RESTRICTS ACCESS TO COLLEGE
Foreign language courses necessary to fulfill college entrance requirements will only be offered to children whose parents follow onerous procedural requirements for a waiver from English-only instruction and to whom the school district agrees to grant a waiver.
This is utterly false. Junior-high and high-school students will continue to
be able to take one or two periods of foreign language courses each term
without the need for any special waivers whatsoever. The argument is based on
a complete misreading of the text of the initiative.
SAVES NO MONEY
This initiative will not save taxpayers' money. The initiative maintains all current funding for language assistance and adds an additional $50 million dollars each year. The initiative takes away money from public schools and gives it to adult education without ensuring that the neediest children will receive help.
Under Spanish-only "bilingual education," children require 7 years to learn
English, and receive extra money for all those years; under the initiative,
they'll learn English within a few months to a year, and then not require an
extra funding for language assistance. The initiative will therefore save
hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Whereas all California schoolchildren have the right to an equal opportunity to advance and excel in all academic subjects, including the opportunity to develop fluency and literacy in the English language;
And whereas no single approach to English language development for English learners has proven to work in all circumstances in all California schools, so local schools should have the ability to select the program most likely to succeed for the children in their district;
And whereas parents of English learners should have the right to determine the best instructional program for their child without undue obstacles to their decisions and without veto power on the part of any local school administrator;
And whereas California teachers are dedicated professionals who, like other public servants in California, should be shielded from personal liability for reasonable actions taken in the course of their jobs;
And whereas the English-only education initiative proposed for California's June 1998 statewide ballot by the organization known as One Nation/One California would restrict parental rights by imposing onerous waiver procedures; limit local control by imposing a single unproven English language development program on all schools in the state; deprive children of an equal right to instruction; and subject teachers to the threat of personal liability for failing to speak English only in the classroom;
Therefore, be it resolved that this organization concludes that the English-only education initiative is not in the best interests of California children, parents, or community members;
And be it further resolved that this organization/board will oppose the English-only education initiative and urge voters to vote "no" on the initiative on California's June 1998 statewide ballot.