SACRAMENTO — After a spirited hearing, the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday rejected the reappointment of Angie L. Papadakis, who has opposed legislation to continue the state's bilingual education program, to a second term on the state Board of Education.
Papadakis, 62, of Rancho Palos Verdes drew stiff opposition from Latino and Asian groups. Last July, Gov. George Deukmejian, who appointed Papadakis, vetoed for the second straight year legislation to extend the state's bilingual program.
As a result, Sen. Henry J. Mello (D-Watsonville), a member of the Rules Committee, contended that schools in his district have begun to abandon bilingual education programs or relax standards.
"To me it's really a sad situation," he said. "Angie Papadakis is the leader in trying to do away with bilingual education."
'A Close Call'
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the Rules Committee, described the Papadakis appointment as "a close call" and abstained from voting on her reconfirmation, which required three votes to be sent to the full Senate. She drew support only from the committee's two Republicans.
Roberti said, however, that if enough Senate Democrats want to vote on Papadakis' appointment, he will consider bringing her name to the Senate floor without a Rules Committee recommendation. She would need to win approval from two-thirds of the 40-member upper chamber.
But one key Democrat, Sen. Nicholas C. Petris of Oakland, a supporter of bilingual programs and a member of the five-member Rules Committee, was on a trip to Greece and Israel. Petris, a leader in the state's Greek community, has known Papadakis for more than 20 years but has not indicated a public position on her reconfirmation.
Appointed in 1983
Papadakis, daughter of Greek immigrants, owns a San Pedro advertising firm and is active in community affairs. Deukmejian first appointed her to the board in 1983 and then reappointed her a year ago. The 11-member state board establishes policy guidelines for the state's public schools.
Last year, Papadakis, representing the Board of Education, testified before a legislative committee in opposition to the bill to extend bilingual programs. Among other things, she said local school districts should be given greater flexibility and be required to obtain parental consent before placing children in bilingual classroom programs.
On Wednesday, Papadakis told the Rules Committee that California still must abide by federal guidelines on bilingual programs "to educate all limited-English-proficient students." Further, she said, "All students who cannot speak English must have some special help, which may be in their native language or not."
Members of the state school board have urged the committee to reconfirm Papadakis.
But at a Rules Committee hearing Jan. 6, officials of the Asian Pacific American Coalition and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation assailed Papadakis' views.
Leland Yee of the San Francisco chapter of the Asian Pacific American Coalition said: "She doesn't support bilingual education. . . . She would return our children to the classrooms of the 1950s" when many children were educated without understanding English.
On Wednesday, Mello, who delayed a vote on Papadakis after the first hearing, painted a picture of school districts dismantling the bilingual education system begun in the 1970s to meet federal court rulings. When Papadakis sought to make a point, the senator shot back: "That's one of your problems--not being able to listen to the other side."
In Los Angeles, schools have continued to operate bilingual programs in the same manner as last year, said Pat Spencer, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Spencer said he "seriously doubts" that the district "will make any reductions in the kind of programs that have existed."
After the hearing, Papadakis said she felt good about the way she had defended her views. Of her rejection by the committee, she said: "I would not do one thing differently. . . . I can't cry over any of this."