Some Calif. Schools Finding Ways Around Prop. 227

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While most California schools are wrestling with the state's new restrictions on bilingual education, some are looking for a way out.

The state has signed off on five districts' plans to convert their existing dual-immersion or two-way bilingual programs into charter schools. Under California law, charter schools are exempt from virtually all state rules.

In addition to charter schools, alternative schools can also operate outside most state rules if they are granted an exemption from the state schools chief.

State Superintendent Delaine Eastin granted exemptions this month to alternative schools in two districts to enable them to continue their dual-immersion programs.

Such moves will affect just a tiny fraction of the state's 1.4 million limited-English-proficient students. Under Proposition 227, a ballot measure California voters approved in June, schools are required, in most cases, to teach LEP students mostly in English.

Voluntary dual-immersion or two-way bilingual programs mix native English speakers with children who speak another language in the same classroom. Students are taught in both languages with the goal of producing students who can speak, read, and write in two languages.

More To Come?

Although Proposition 227 allows parents, under some circumstances, to seek waivers so that their children can continue in bilingual education, administrators such as Stephen R. Martínez say parents still feel that their children's programs would remain vulnerable.

Districts, state officials, and the courts continue to wrangle over exactly how the new law should be carried out.

That's a big reason why the two-way bilingual program at Edison Elementary School in the Santa Monica-Malibu district, where Mr. Martínez is the principal, became a charter this month.

California has an estimated 164 charter schools.

Observers say they expect more schools with bilingual programs to seek charter or alternative school status.

"I think we'll see more--not as a mad rush, but as a trickle, which is what we're seeing now," said Sue Steelman Bragato, the executive director of the California Network of Educational Charters.

The state education department is considering requests from nine districts seeking alternative school waivers for their two-way programs, officials said last week.

In addition, 45 of California's 1,000 districts have applied to the state school board seeking waivers from all or parts of Proposition 227.

Those waivers have been put on hold while the board awaits further direction from the courts.

Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 3

Published in Print: September 30, 1998, as Some Calif. Schools Finding Ways Around Prop. 227
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