English and Buttered Bread

California Gov. Gray Davis is regarded by allies and adversaries alike as a remarkably disciplined, resolute, shrewd, and determined politician—with the colorlessness of dull but very tough gray steel. No one better knows which side of his political bread is buttered.

Thus it is notable that one of the largest items in Gov. Davis’s new education budget is a massive $300 million expansion of the $50 million adult English literacy program established by Prop. 227, which, according to all press coverage, has proven extraordinarily popular among California’s immigrant parents.

This decision by Davis comes just weeks after his surprising appointment of Nancy Ichinaga, a leading foe of bilingual education, to the State Board of Education, and other reports that the State Department of Education is preparing to impose millions of dollars in penalties upon recalcitrant school districts (such as San Francisco) unwilling to comply with the state’s English language testing requirements. Nearly two years since the passage of Prop. 227, the verdict of history is becoming increasingly clear, as a million children successfully learn English who previously were not doing so.

Many politicians probably suspected these developments from the beginning. It is noteworthy that in these past two years, I am not aware of a single California politician who has attacked or even significantly criticized Prop. 227. Foes during the campaign seemed to turn mute the day after the vote. I further suspect that if the new immigrant student test scores due in June are as encouraging as those of last year, erstwhile opponents will begin to claim that only their carelessness and prior committments prevented them from originally signing on as co-proponents of the initiative.

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