Allan Favish is a Los Angeles-based attorney whose focus is on General Insurance Defense and Litigation Insurance Coverage/Reinsurance & Bad Faith Litigation. A UCLA graduate, he received his J.D. at Hastings College of Law in 1981.
The June 1998 California ballot will contain a proposition that will significantly reduce the extent of bilingual education in California public schools. However, virtually unnoticed is that this "English Language Education for Immigrant Children" proposition, also will override Proposition 187's prohibition on public elementary and secondary school education for children who are illegally present in the United States.
California Education Code sec. 48215(a), created by Proposition 187, states:
No public elementary or secondary school shall admit, or permit the attendance of, any child who is not a citizen of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted as a permanent resident, or a person who is otherwise authorized under federal law to be present in the United States.
But the "English for the Children" proposition will add section 300(c) to the Education Code to say:
WHEREAS the government and the public schools of California have a moral obligation and a constitutional duty to provide all of California's children, regardless of their ethnicity or national origins, with the skills necessary to become productive members of our society, and of these skills, literacy in the English language is among the most important....
Subsection (c) does not say "all of California's children who are legally entitled to attend public elementary or secondary school," but broadly says "all of California's children," which necessarily includes those who are here illegally.
"English for the Children" also would add section 340 to the Education Code to say that section 300 "shall be assumed to contain the governing intent of the statute."
The chief sponsor and author of "English for the Children" is Ron Unz. When he ran against Pete Wilson in the 1994 Republican gubernatorial primary, he opposed Proposition 187. While it is unclear whether the overriding of Proposition 187's ban on public education for illegal aliens was deliberately intended by Unz, it is clear that the day after "English for the Children" passes, you can expect Proposition 187's opponents to be in court arguing that its key provision has been overridden.
Many people, like me, support Proposition 187's ban on publicly financed education for illegal aliens and believe that eventually it will be upheld by the courts. We also support the significant reduction, if not the elimination of bilingual education and wish that Unz had written his initiative without overriding any part of Proposition 187. As presently constituted, I will vote against "English for the Children" because it repeals the key portion of Proposition 187.
However, corrective action is possible. As noted by the California Supreme Court in White v. Davis, 13 Cal.3d 757, 775 (1975), when courts interpret a law enacted through the initiative process, the ballot pamphlet arguments for the initiative are part of the "legislative history" that guides their interpretation.
Therefore, the ballot pamphlet arguments for "English for the Children" should expressly say that the initiative is not intended to extend public education to illegal aliens and the intent is to leave that area of law undisturbed.
I hope Unz can make "English for the Children" something I can support.
Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1998, p. B9. This version includes some material edited out of the version published in the Times, mostly, citations to sources.
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