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From: Ron Unz, Chairman
As someone who's unfortunately very much in the middle of these endless bilingual battles, I have to correct some of the details in Joe Guzzardi's column View from Lodi, CA: "Bilingual Education" Surviving — With Help From Bush.
(1) In general, the Davis people have been pretty good on "English." In fact, just a few weeks ago, Davis vetoed a bill sponsored by Richard Polanco, head of the Latino Caucus, which would have slightly watered down Prop. 227. (The bilingual activists had apparently harassed Polanco into sponsoring the bill and Polanco's deep personal support for bilingual ed is best indicated by the fact that just a few days after the Davis veto, he was all smiles at a big press conference endorsing Davis for reelection.) Your concerns about the California State Board are outdated; they wobbled earlier in the year under pressure from the bilinguals, but I counter-attacked them ferociously in the media and forced them back into line.
(2) Although it's true that the relentlessly fanatic bilinguals are gaining in some parts of California, on balance, they've lost lots of ground over the last four years. In particular, during the last year or two, gigantic Los Angeles Unified School District has finally gotten rid of most of its remaining bilingual programs, and by a remarkable coincidence immigrant test scores shot up soon afterward. Bilingual victories in several small districts hardly compensate for their collapse in their central LA fortress.
(3) A significant part of the bilingual counter-offensive in California seems to be led by the Bush Administration, which has apparently been pressing the Davis appointees on several fronts. Unfortunately, it seems that Bush appointed several particularly fanatic bilingual activists in his Department of Education and they're causing me a great deal of trouble. This is hardly surprising, since under Bush, Texas had some of America's worst Spanish-only "bilingual programs," and Bush constantly praised them.
(4) My own national strategy relies on the impact of a big win a few days from now in Massachusetts, possibly the most liberal Democratic state in America and a very influential East Coast media center. The local coverage and ferment there has been enormous—nearly twenty Boston Globe and Boston Herald stories in the last four days alone—and seems to be generating more popular excitement than the governors' race or anything else. Thursday's statewide Massachusetts poll had us up by 43(!) points, and we haven't needed to spend a single dollar on advertising.
(5) Colorado is much tougher. As you may have heard, some nutty billionaire heiress named Pat Stryker dumped $3 million into the No campaign a few weeks ago, funding the largest media blitz in state history, and we're desperately scrambling to survive. Fortunately, people in New York and D.C. pay much more attention to what happens in Massachusetts than in Colorado. And if we somehow do eke out a victory in Colorado against such enormous odds, the impact could be considerable. Dick Lamm, the three-term Democratic governor who originally established bilingual education there, is starring in our (limited) radio spots, and they seem to be getting a good reception.
(6) Your mention of Santa Ana is ironic, since after Massachusetts, it's the second linchpin of my national strategy. I'm backing some local Latino parents there in their effort to overthrow the rather corrupt pro-bilingual Latino political leadership, and I think they have an excellent chance of success. Santa Ana is the most Spanish-speaking city in America, as well as one of the most heavily immigrant and Latino. If the group I'm backing wins, with their campaign built around on the "English" issue, I'm hoping for considerable national media coverage of this "man bites dog" result, and resulting political momentum elsewhere.
Overall, I think I have things reasonably well in hand, though the very real possibility of a loss in Colorado would be disappointing.
The Bush people are far and away my most troublesome obstacles. But I think I can gradually gain the upper hand over them.
Unfortunately, I'm having to fight this national campaign virtually alone, with almost no substantial help from anybody else, and this is a huge burden and aggravation.
You also just can't IMAGINE how sick and tired I am of "English" after all these years of campaigning, and I would much rather be doing almost anything else. But there's really no one else out there who has any effectiveness...
Joe Guzzardi replies: From my perspective as a teacher in the California language trenches, waivers still seem a very big deal. There are lots of ways to subvert the process, especially in Los Angeles/Southern California.
As I said, and Ron Unz confirms, Bush is very much in favor of bilingual education; so his Education Secretary, Paige, is in lock-step with him.
Among us friends, I will tell you that one very major reason that all test scores have gone up recently is that 1) teachers teach the test or 2) teachers give the answers during the test. The latter is not pervasive but more common that you would like to think. This phenomenon is making all test results, and conclusions drawn from them, unreliable. Kids do not know more at all.
I don't know anyone in southern California who feels that English-Only is in the driver's seat, regardless of what the law is.
October 28, 2002