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Overcoming Leadership Opposition, California Republican Party Endorses "English for the Children"Initiative

CONTACT: SHERI ANNIS
(213) 627-0005

September 28, 1997.

Anaheim, CA---Overcoming strong opposition from senior leaders, the rank-and-file members of the California Republican Party voted overwhelmingly on Sunday at their semi-annual convention to endorse the June 1998 "English for the Children" initiative, which would largely end "bilingual education" programs in California public schools. Opposition to "bilingual education" has been part of state and national Republican Party platforms for two decades.

Republican Chairman Michael Schroeder and other party leaders had opened the convention on Friday vowing to prevent a party endorsement of the initiative, arguing that the ballot measure would further alienate Latino voters angry at the party's past support for Prop. 187. Shortly thereafter, before most delegates had arrived, a newly created committee hand-picked by Chairman Schroeder voted 3-1 to block the endorsement resolution sponsored by Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge).

But once the full membership arrived, the political tide began to turn as the caucus of all 58 of California's Republican County Chairman voted unanimously to endorse the initiative. Then on Saturday morning, the party Resolutions Committee overturned the previous committee ruling by a 15-6 vote and revived the endorsement resolution, which subsequently passed overwhelmingly by voice vote of the full Republican Party membership on Sunday morning.

Ron Unz, Chairman of the "English for the Children" campaign and an outspoken opponent of Prop.187, suggested that the Republican Party leadership misunderstood the desires of ordinary Latinos: "Nearly all Latino parents are very eager to have their children taught English when they go to school, which our initiative will finally allow. Ensuring that all young children are sent to school and taught English should be the most uncontroversial law imaginable. We're also hoping to gain the endorsements of the Democratic, Reform, Libertarian, and Green parties as well."

Aside from Republican Chairman Schroeder, Attorney General Dan Lungren, the likely Republican Gubernatorial nominee, and Republican Assembly Leader Bill Leonard had also indicated their opposition to the initiative. Gov. Pete Wilson had remained neutral.