July 8, 1997.
Los Angeles, CA -- The drive to qualify a new voter initiative to end California's current system of "bilingual education" begins 10:00am Tuesday morning at Las Familias del Pueblo, a local community center at 307 East 7th St., in the heart of LA's heavily immigrant Latino downtown garment district.
"After 25 years of 'bilingual education,' a quarter of all children in California public schools don't know English, and of these, only about 5% learn English each year," said Ron K. Unz, the Silicon Valley software entrepreneur who serves as Chairman of the "English for the Children" initiative drive. "The current system has an annual failure rate of 95% and is very unpopular with immigrant parents, who overwhelmingly want their children taught English as soon as they begin school. We are fully committed to getting our initiative on the June ballot and ending 'bilingual education' in California within 11 months, allowing all children to learn English in California schools."
If approved by voters, the initiative will require that non-English proficient students be moved from the native-language based "bilingual education" system mandated by current state law into an intensive program of "sheltered English immersion". "Bilingual education" would remain an option which parents could specifically request for their children. The initiative will also allocate $50 million per year for ten years to fund adult English literacy programs.
Mr. Unz, a leading California opponent of Proposition 187, mounted a conservative, pro-immigrant challenge to Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1994 Republican primary, receiving 34% of the vote. The initiative campaign is co-chaired by Gloria Matta Tuchman, a Mexican-American elementary school teacher from Santa Ana. Mrs. Tuchman is a past member of MALDEF and U.S. English, and was named LULAC "Woman of the Year" in 1988.
Las Familias had served as the headquarters for the Latino parents who launched a 1996 boycott of the 9th St. Elementary School in protest over the school's "bilingual education" policies and refusal to teach English to their children. The center is directed by Sister Alice Callaghan, an Episcopal priest and longtime immigrant-rights activist, who serves as an advisor to the initiative campaign.