The percentage of parents requesting bilingual waivers, which essentially dodge the intention of Proposition 227, varies wildly from one Ventura County school district to another.
The Times reported last week that in some districts--even heavily Latino ones in Fillmore and Santa Paula--practically no parents have requested bilingual instruction for their children.
Yet in half a dozen districts in the Ventura and Oxnard area, parents of between 60% and 95% of the children who are not fluent in English have asked to resume bilingual education after a mandatory 30-day trial run in a "sheltered English immersion" program.
A deciding factor appears to be how vigorously each school district chose to promote the waiver option to parents.
Proposition 227, designed to all but eliminate bilingual instruction, was approved by 61% of California voters in June. It requires districts to educate limited-English-speaking children "nearly all" in English. But state regulations allow parents to keep their child in bilingual classes if the youngster has "special physical, emotional, psychological or educational needs that an alternate [bilingual] course of educational study would be better suited to the child's overall educational development."
Among the major selling points for Proposition 227 were tales of Latino parents unable to free their children from the trap of bilingual classrooms. Give the parents a choice, the argument went, and they will request English immersion.
While we sympathize with parents who balk at tossing their kids into this scary experiment in sink-or-swim education, we agree that some districts appear to be pushing the waivers strongly enough to violate at least the spirit of Proposition 227.
On the up side: The different approaches taken by Ventura County districts should produce a better comparison than ever before of whether students learn better through English immersion or bilingual classrooms. We will be watching the results closely, and we encourage county and state school officials to do the same.