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California and the West

Davis Seeks More English Classes for Immigrants

Budget: Instruction would cost $300 million, help students and parents. He also wants $400 million for more school computers.


SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis will propose today that California increase spending by $300 million to help immigrant children and their parents learn English, in a program his aides say will assist almost 800,000 new Californians.

The proposal, contained in a brief paragraph distributed by Davis' aides to reporters Sunday, says students would receive the voluntary tutoring during school vacations, after school and on Saturdays.

The tutoring could be provided by district teachers, or by private organizations or public libraries with the expertise to teach English. Administration aides estimate there would be room for 170,000 parents and 625,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Also on Sunday, Davis announced that he would seek legislative approval for an additional $400 million to buy computers for schools, wire them into the Internet and train teachers to use them. The computer proposal increases to $600 million the amount that the Democratic governor wants to spend on classroom computers next year.

An aide to Davis said the spending will provide an average of one computer for every seven or eight public school students. The current ratio, he said, is one computer for every 15 students.

The proposals capped a week in which Davis announced that he wants to boost state aid to schools by a combined $3.5 billion, pushing state education funding beyond $27 billion next year. He also called for $2 billion more for transportation spread over the next five years, and tax rebates of $1.9 billion, primarily for people who paid 1999 state income taxes.

Among his education spending ideas, Davis wants to shift $1.8 billion to local schools for use as school board members see fit. The bulk of the money is expected to go for teacher pay raises.

On Saturday, Davis called for another $500 million in teacher bonuses if they work at schools where student scores on standardized tests rise.

But his most unusual proposal also came Saturday when he called for eliminating the state income tax for public school teachers, an idea that would save them about $500 million a year.

Several top lawmakers criticized the idea, saying that it did not appear to be well thought out and would prompt other public service employees such as police officers to seek similar treatment.

Indeed, several details of the tax elimination idea remain to be worked out. On Sunday, Davis' aides said they were unsure whether the proposal would apply to teachers and tutors who provide after-school English language instruction for new Californians.

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