California Republicans Fail to Push English Education: Many Hispanics Back Bid to End Bilingual Teaching

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES - While a ballot proposal mandating education in English enjoys growing support, California Republican leaders haven't exactly been leading the parade.

State Republican Chairman Mike Schroeder says that the measure will be portrayed as Hispanic-bashing, and Rod Pacheco, the state Assembly's lone Hispanic Republican, has blasted the measure as a divisive "meat cleaver" approach.

Hispanic Republicans Glenn Becerra and Ernesto Feliciano have warned that Democrats will use the measure to again portray Republicans as anti-immigrant.

But one of the state's most prominent Hispanic Democrats says the GOP opposition will hurt children in the classroom and the Republican Party at the polls.

"If they don't embrace this, they will lose a lot of votes," said Fernando Vega, a Bay Area Democrat who worked for the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992. The former champion of bilingual education now supports the "English for the Children" initiative.

"People are not looking at it as a Republican or Democrat issue," he said. "They are looking at it as something that has failed their children. If [Republicans] oppose it, they send a message that they want to keep Hispanics ignorant in the area of education."

"I am amazed at how cowardly the Republican Party leadership is on this issue," said Ron Unz, a software entrepreneur and 1994 Republican candidate for governor who founded English for the Children.

The initiative mandates that all children in California public schools be taught in English and placed in English-language classrooms. Parents who wish to place their children in bilingual classes must make a special request, a reversal of the current system.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, told The Washington Times the governor has taken no position on the initiative. Mr. Wilson supported both Proposition 209, which ended state race and sex preferences, and Proposition 187, which limited benefits for illegal immigrants. California Attorney General Dan Lungren, often mentioned as a GOP candidate for governor, is reportedly leaning against the English initiative because of its "one-size-fits-all" approach. …