Tuesday, October 8, 2002
Ninth Circuit Upholds Measure Banning Bilingual Education
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Opponents of an English-only public school measure lost another legal challenge yesterday when a federal appeals court declined, for a second time, to roll back the measure.
Proposition 227, which virtually banned bilingual education in California public schools, has prevailed through the federal courts since taking effect in 1998.
Four years ago, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by bilingual education advocates for an injunction that would have prevented the measure from taking effect.
Yesterday, a panel of the same court rejected arguments that the initiative violated the Equal Protection Clause by improperly reallocating local school district authority to the state to further a racial purpose.
The court agreed that the measure reallocated a political decision to the state and that the impact may fall primarily on Latinos born in other countries and others who would otherwise make use of bilingual education classes.
But, Judge A. Wallace Tashima wrote, “[w]hile Proposition 227 surely reallocated political authority, placing control over bilingual education at the state (rather than local) level, the reallocation of political authority at issue in Proposition 227 operated solely to address an educational issue, not a racial one.”
The initiative, approved by 61 percent of the voters, repealed 30 years of policies that allowed California public school students to be taught English and other subjects in their native languages until they were fluent in English.
The new law requires all classes to be “overwhelmingly” in English. Students who speak limited English are to be taught in separate English-only classes that normally would last no more than a year, although they can seek re-enrollment.
Students can remain in bilingual education if their parents, teachers and principal agree it is best for them. If a student is under 10, the local superintendent’s approval is also required.
Opponents said the law violated the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, which requires states to let educational agencies take “appropriate action to overcome language barriers.”
Thomas Saenz, vice president of litigation for the Los Angeles office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said he was disappointed by the ruling and argued that the decision was inconsistent with legal precedent.
But the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation hailed the decision, calling Proposition 227 “the lawful, nondiscriminatory solution to a broken-down system that provided nothing more than a disservice to California’s English-learning students.”
The case is Valeria v. Davis, 01-15219.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company