SPANISH-language network mogul Jerry Perenchio has donated $1.5 million to the effort to defeat Proposition 227, the measure that would replace bilingual education with English immersion programs.

Hmmmm. Spanish TV guy spends $1.5 mil to preserve the status quo. What are voters to make of that?

It brings to mind the classic story, “The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton. You know, wooer of young princess is placed in an arena where he must pick between two doors. Behind one lies a babe, behind the other, a hungry tiger. The princess learns which door holds the dish and which, the devourer. She signals a door to her lover. He opens it. The story ends: “Which came out of the open door — the lady or the tiger?”

Is Perenchio thinking greater good (lady) or greater profits (tiger)?

Ron Unz, co-author of the 227, says Tiger. His spokeswoman Sheri Annis told the Sacramento Bee, “Perenchio is certainly placing financial gain ahead of children’s interests by attempting to ensure that Latino children do not learn English for many, many years.”

(To this, anti-227 political consultant Richie Ross raged, “That’s the single most racist statement made in this campaign.” Which shows that the only racism in this race has come from the Antis.)

The 227 folks also pulled out a March Forbes report that Perenchio’s Univision — which boasts an 80 percent market share of America’s Spanish-TV viewers — lost 6 percent of younger female viewers this season, and 26 percent of younger males, according to Nielson Media Research.

“Ratings do fluctuate,” Univision vice president of public relations Anne Corley responded.

On the Lady side, she argued that Univision has everything to gain when Spanish-speakers learn English. They make more money, and that sweetens Univision’s ad revenue. Univision editorializes — in Spanish, of course — against 227 because it eliminates local control and imposes an untested teaching method.

Perenchio’s $1.5 million will pay for English anti-227 ads. Conversely, L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, a friend of Perenchio, is spending $250,000 on independent ads, starring his daughter who speaks fluent Spanish, to bolster 227 among Latino voters. “I wanted to defuse any racial issues, get across to Latinos that their decision should be based on what they think is in the best interests of the children,” he said.

It’s a welcome twist — and telling — when the 227 crowd is courting Latinos, while the Spanish-TV guy preaches to English speakers.

When asked about the four gubernatorial candidates’ opposition to 227, Unz has noted that Perenchio is a big donor to GOP Attorney General Dan Lungren (more than $200,000) and Demo Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis ($100,000) and Representative Jane Harman ($50,000).

Sorry, that’s not why they oppose 227. Harman and Davis wouldn’t dare cross the organized Latino left — which, unlike polled Latino voters, opposes 227. Lungren fears turning Latinos off, recites a mantra for local control and probably doesn’t want to boost the profile of Unz, who once ran for governor.

Still, it says something about Perenchio. If strong principles dictate his largesse, why give six-figures to three people vying for the same office? (“We do not comment on Mr. Perenchio’s donations,” Corley replied.)

Lady or tiger?

I’ve never ascribed to the notion that venal motives cause bad public school policies. I can’t believe teachers — or even educrats — would recommend texts that they don’t think work. They’re misguided, not greedy.

But I also know that financial gain and twisted philosophies can cause people to believe things that run contrary to experience and common sense — such as that the tiger could be good, for other people of course.

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