Prop. 227 passage: ‘Wait and see’ for district
For Tahoe-Truckee educators, Tuesday’s election results were a wash – a victory with the defeat of Proposition 223, the act to restrict central administrative costs within each district, and a loss with the passage of Proposition 227, the English-only initiative.
“We are glad that 223 didn’t pass,” said Vince Deveney, Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District superintendent. “We wish 227 hadn’t passed because we have so many good projects in place.”
The unofficial totals showed Prop. 223 defeated by 54 percent and Prop. 227 winning with 68.52 percent.
Deveney said although he was sure Prop. 223 would not have affected the district as heavily as it would have in other districts, he said he is not completely sure of Proposition 227’s impacts.
“We have 90 days to comply, which will take us into the next school year,” he said. “If it goes to court things could change again.”
Ruta Krusa, TTUSD coordinator for state and federal programs, said the district is in a “wait-and-see mode.”
“We knew organizations were going to take this to court immediately,” she said. “The California Teachers Association had a restraining order in place for 9 a.m. (Wednesday morning) if the proposition passed.”
Prop. 227, authored by software entrepreneur Ron Unz, mandated the abolition of bilingual classes within California beginning this fall.
Propelled by what opponents of Prop. 227 charge as
immigrant-bashing and rigid educational bureaucracy, the initiative bans bilingual education in elementary grades.
Krusa said the district was about to begin an innovative enrichment program with dual language education. She said the program would make Spanish speakers proficient in English by the fifth grade.
Of the 14 percent of districtwide students participating in bilingual education, 12 percent are Spanish speakers, which amounts to several hundred students mostly in Kings Beach and Truckee.
The district recently approved the immersion program that would educate Spanish speakers in their native language to help understand their academic subjects while slowly immersing them in the English language.
“There are parents who do not want their children totally immersed in English teaching,” she said. “This ties our hands.”
English-speaking students who choose to seek bilingual education would also be proficient in Spanish by fifth grade.
The proposition will not interfere with foreign language classes on the high school level.
Deveney and Krusa said Spanish-speaking students need time to develop their language skills and not everyone progresses at the same pace.
“Our goal has always been to make all students proficient in English,” she said. “I think there were misconceptions about bilingual education.”
Krusa said before the election that Prop. 227 would have initial costly impacts. The additional costs will reflect the need to replace Spanish-only books with English books, as well as staff development.
“The only way we are going to be able to do a half-decent job is through staff development,” she said. “Educators are going to have to be proficient in Spanish to be able to teach Spanish-speaking students in English. With the time we have it would be impossible.”
Krusa also said credentialing and federal funding could be affected with Prop. 227’s passage.
“We just aren’t sure how exactly any of this is going to affect us,” she said.
Deveney said that at last night’s district board meeting, the board chose not to agendize the election results and made only small mention of the proposition’s possible effects.
“It’s too soon for us to talk about it,” he said. “We need more time to assess what the impacts are going to be.”
Items discussed at the meeting included:
— District negotiations with the California School Employees Association.
— 1998-99 site plans for Sierra Mountain Middle, North Tahoe High and Rideout Elementary schools.
— Approval for a bid for relocatable sitework at Glenshire Elementary, Sierra Mountain Middle and Sierra High schools.
— Approval for superintendent candidate screeners.
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