Proposition 227, the English for the Children Initiative was passed by the voters in the June 3, 1998 election with an overwhelming plurality of 56.4% of Los Angeles County and 61% throughout the State. This law established the right of all public school children in California to be instructed in the English Language with the provision that parents/guardian could utilize waivers to relinquish this right if they so chose. This proposition is now formalized as part of the State of California's Education Code, Sections 300-340.
Section 1, Article 305 of the California Education Code requires that all public school instruction be conducted in English. It requires that children who are English learners shall be educated through the use of "structured" English immersion. "Structured" English immersion under this code means an English Language acquisition process for young children in which nearly all classroom instruction is in English.
Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is by far the largest school district in the county and as such has a strong influence on the actions of other districts in implementing Proposition 227.
The LAUSD has adopted two distinct Models, commonly referred to as Model A and Model B. According to a September 11, 1998, 31-page LAUSD Memorandum #M-60 on Proposition 227 Implementation, the following quotations are from the Section "Elementary Teaching":
Ite m 10 - "Each school must offer structured English immersion Model A and Model B. All schools will implement structured English immersion Model A or Model B on the basis of individual parent's choices. In addition, some schools will offer a Basic Program for students based on a waiver request."
Item 3 -"When programs must be combined, it is most reasonable to assign students in the Basic Program together with students in Model B because both use the primary language."
Structured English Immersion Model A
This model is designed to provide core academic instruction in English to limited-English proficient students with primary language support provided through the use of para-educator, peer tutors and specialized instructional materials. Under Model A guidelines, the student's primary language is only used for clarification if required.
Structured English Immersion Model B
This model is designed to provide instruction almost entirely in the English language. Special methods of teaching English, combined with instructional support provided by an authorized teacher, should provide access to the core content. It is anticipated that BCLAD or BILINGUAL certified teachers will staff these classes.
We found that every educator we interviewed in LAUSD had the best interests of the children at heart. However, some administrators, teachers and other staff members were either genuinely confused or sometimes openly hostile to the objectives of Proposition 227. It appears strongly to us that some of these educators are using their positions and influence to circumvent the intent of the Proposition.
Structured English Immersion Model B, as implemented in some schools, is not consistent with the terms of Education Code Sections 300 to 340. It is being misused, based on the fact that in actual practice, English is not being used to teach all subjects. Under Model B, core academic subjects can be taught in the students' primary language. At a public hearing on July 28, 1998, it was stated by a member of the LAUSD Governing Board that Model B uses the child's primary language to teach core concepts in reading, language arts, science, social studies and math.
The Superintendent of LAUSD has indicated that the number of waivers requesting exemption from the requirements of Proposition 227 has been at about 10% overall. However, our own investigation has found that some schools have over 70% waivers and that administrators who are anti-Proposition 227 have very active campaigns which promote the use of waivers by parents/guardians. What is not pointed out to these parents/guardians by these administrators is that the non-waiver Model B program is nearly identical to the former bilingual/lingual teaching program that existed in the schools prior to the recent passage of Proposition 227.
In Model B classrooms our committee found that, as early as Kindergarten, new text books have been found in the primary language of students. It is reasonable to question why ata level in which students are just beginning to learn to read that they be taught in any language other than English.
There is risk that the Los Angeles Unified School District is exposing itself to financial liability in terms of its Education Code Section 320. Proposition 227 provides that the District and its employees may be subject to legal action if the terms of the statute are not implemented. Since Model B is found to be inconsistent with the provisions of the Education Code, the financial liability both to the District and to the individuals involved could be significant.
It is recommended that the LAUSD Board:
1. Direct that Model A become the operative format used District-wide and that Model B be immediately discontinued.
2. Immediately acquire approved English language textbooks and other material to assist in implementing a full program of "Structured" English Immersion Instruction.
3. Actively discourage the use of waivers as a mechanism for avoiding provisions of Education Code Section 311, Article 3. Implement a proactive Informational Program directed to parents and guardians. This influential group of ultimate decision-makers must be convinced not to encourage a decision which surrenders their children's right to be taught in the English language exclusively, except when in rare instances, special or compelling unique circumstances may require it.