SACRAMENTO — Supporters of bilingual education on Wednesday urged the Senate Rules Committee to reject the reconfirmation of Angie L. Papadakis of Rancho Palos Verdes to the state Board of Education because she has opposed bills that would have continued the state's bilingual program.
During a legislative hearing last year, Papadakis testified against a bill by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) to continue the bilingual program, which expired on July 1. The bill was later vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian, who had also vetoed a similar measure the year before. Papadakis has said she also opposed the earlier bill.
Papadakis, 62, who owns a San Pedro advertising firm and is active in community affairs, was appointed to the board by Deukmejian in 1983 and reappointed last year. Unless the Senate acts on her nomination by Jan. 15, she must leave the 11-member board, which establishes policy for the state's public schools.
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti, chairman of the Rules Committee, delayed a vote on Papadakis until next Wednesday--just two days before her confirmation deadline. Papadakis, whose original nomination sailed through the Senate unanimously, expressed optimism that she will be reconfirmed, but Roberti said she may face an uphill fight in the committee.
The spirited, two-hour hearing turned into a symposium on bilingual education. Latino and Asian groups, which support bilingual programs, assailed Papadakis, whose views were defended by two of her state board colleagues.
In an emotional appeal to the committee, Papadakis, the offspring of Greek immigrants, described how she entered grade school in Los Angeles without knowing any English but went on to do well in public schools. "Some say I am against immigrants. That is not true," Papadakis said.
Papadakis described herself as a "strong supporter" of bilingual education but acknowledged that she had opposed bills to extend the program. She said she sought a variety of changes, among them a provision to require parental consent before students are placed in bilingual classrooms.
Perry Dyke, president of the state board, said Papadakis' views have been misrepresented. Dyke said Papadakis supports bilingual education but favors "teaching English as quickly as possible."
The state's bilingual education program was launched in the 1970s to meet federal court rulings. It was aimed at teaching students with limited skills in English to learn the language and work at the same academic level as their English-speaking peers. Although the program expired, many districts have said they are continuing to follow its guidelines.
In opposing Papadakis, Benjamin M. Lopez, regional director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, said: "We have great trouble with the way she has presented herself as being a supporter of bilingual education in words when . . . she has gone out of her way to oppose the two bills which stood the best chance of extending the life of the bilingual education program."
Roberti, who has not taken a position on her reconfirmation, told Papadakis: "What I fear is that you voted against bilingual education . . . in a vacuum of California history" in which Latinos "have been treated as an underclass."
Papadakis denied that she was insensitive to minority groups and pointed out that the committee had received 90 letters in support of her reconfirmation, contrasted with 70 opposing it.
Shortly before the hearing ended, Papadakis was accused of using a racial epithet during her testimony Wednesday. Leland Y. Yee, president of the San Francisco region of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, told the committee that he was shocked and angered that Papadakis, quoting from an article she had written, used the term "Chinaman" to describe a Chinese man. Papadakis apologized, saying she had not intended to disparage Yee or anyone else.