English for the Children Campaign Notes

Leaf-Blowers 1, Bilingual Education 0

Even after Prop. 187, there are those who say that Latinos immigrants are politically inert, and unwilling to involve themselves in public activity. These skeptics have now been proven completely wrong.

With bilingual education—one of the chief Latino legacies of the 1960s era—under threat of annihilation in California, Latino public protest has mushroomed. Late in 1997, MALDEF, LULAC, and other Latino activist organizations spread the word of the threat to bilingual education into Los Angeles’s huge Latino community, and the response was extraordinary. Hundreds of disciplined Latino immigrants repeatedly marched downtown to City Hall, engaging in mass public protest and civil disobedience. A select group of protesters even began a long hunger strike, threatening to end their own lives unless political leaders reconsidered their proposed ban. Latino immigrants showed politicians of all backgrounds their passionate commitment to an issue about which they cared so strongly.

Unfortunately for MALDEF, LULAC, et al, none of these mass protests had anything to do with bilingual education. Instead, the target was the LA City Council’s ban on the use of leaf-blowers by gardeners. The public support of Latinos for bilingual education has been deafening in its silence.

Leaf-blowers 1, bilingual education 0.


Poor Vickie Castro

Late 1997 saw an interesting Democratic primary battle in the special election for the heavily Latino 46th Assembly District in downtown Los Angeles, vacated by Louis Caldera. The two leading candidates were Vickie Castro, a prominent member of the LA Board of Education, and Gil Cedillo, a union activist.

Castro was the heavy favorite, having far greater name recognition and the endorsement of Gloria Molina, the most popular Latino leader in the Los Angeles area.

According to the LA Times report on the election, Castro made support for bilingual education programs her top campaign issue, while Cedillo emphasized his opposition to Governor Pete Wilson and his policies.

Poor Vickie Castro. All polls have shown that bilingual education and Pete Wilson are both extraordinarily unpopular among California Latinos, so Castro’s campaign suffered from a double-wammy.

Naturally, Cedillo won in a landslide.


Frightened Latino Mothers

Over the past few months, KWKW, a popular Spanish-language talk-radio station in Los Angeles, has regularly featured call-in shows discussing the proposed “English for the Children” initiative against bilingual education in California.

Although the vast majority of the Latino callers have indicated their support for the initiative, one recent caller—a Latino immigrant mother from the Santa Monica area—was very worried about the details of the measure. However, once she was informed that the initiative applied to Santa Monica as well as Los Angeles and would get rid of bilingual education in her own school district, her fears disappeared.

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