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100 Protest Initiative to End Bilingual Teaching

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Protesting a ballot measure that would virtually ban bilingual education, about 100 people demonstrated Saturday, saying such instruction helps children better learn English and their native languages.

“Bilingual education works,” said Fullerton College student Lorena Vitela, 24, who was enrolled in bilingual classes in elementary school.

Demonstrators were protesting the “English for the Children” measure, sponsored by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron K. Unz, which would end most native-language teaching programs in public schools for students not fluent in English. The initiative qualified for the June ballot.

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Jimmy Ramos, who organized the demonstration and who teaches English as a second language at Fullerton College, said the measure would deprive students with limited English skills of a complete education.

“Education is more than English,” Ramos said.

The protesters gathered at a car dealership at North Harbor Boulevard and Romneya Drive whose owner is a friend of Ramos.

During the two-hour demonstration, children clad in traditional Mexican dress performed native dances to celebrate their heritage.

Unz’s measure proposes that children who speak little English receive about a year of instruction in the language and then move into mainstream classes. Unz and his supporters argue this is the most effective way for immigrant children to learn English.

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Demonstrator Leticia Rodella, an Anaheim resident who is coordinator of special programs in a Pico Rivera school district, said studies do not show that Unz’s “English immersion” approach is successful. Forcing children to spend a year studying English exclusively sets them back in other subjects, she added.

“The public doesn’t understand that bilingual education does promote English,” Rodella said.

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Fullerton mother Maria Saldo, 24, said she is fighting to keep bilingual education because she wants her four children to be fluent in English and Spanish.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to speak Spanish to my children,” Saldo said in Spanish. “Both languages are important.”

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