Original URL:  http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/299/metro/Bilingual_ed_backers_criticize_Romney+.shtml

Bilingual ed backers criticize Romney
By Sarah Schweitzer, Globe Staff, 10/26/2002

Supporters of bilingual education yesterday blasted Republican Mitt Romney's
support of English immersion, releasing a letter by a consultant to California
education officials that found the method has left students who don't speak English
struggling in a school district that Romney touts as a model.

The two leading
gubernatorial candidates
are sharply divided on the
issue of bilingual
education. Romney
supports Question 2, the
ballot initiative that would
replace bilingual education
with English immersion.
Democrat Shannon
O'Brien opposes it.

On the campaign trail,
Romney has highlighted
the Oceanside Unified
School District of 22,000 students, 40 miles north of San Diego, as a success for
its English immersion program. Four years ago California voters approved a
measure similar to Massachusetts's Question 2 that replaced bilingual education
with English immersion statewide.

Yesterday, supporters of bilingual education in Massachusetts seized on the
California consultant's letter as proof that immersion has failed to properly educate
students who have a limited knowledge of English. ''Oceanside is continually used
by supporters of Question 2 as a model for English immersion,'' said Owen Egan,
campaign manager for the Committee for Fairness to Children and Teachers. ''This
letter debunks that myth.''

The letter, addressed to Kenneth Noonan, Oceanside's superintendent, and dated
Sept. 12, describes a ''large number of students in Oceanside schools ... who are
still not fully proficient in English and not functioning at grade level.'' It goes on to
say that ''the students are orally proficient but have not yet attained sufficient
consultative or academic English to be able to be successful in mainstream classes.''

Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, dismissed the letter as a political ploy.

''Every attempt will be made by the opposition to change to defend the status quo,''
he said. ''And one thing we know for certain is that our current bilingual education
system is broken and needs to be fixed.''

Joseph Farley, a deputy superintendent of the Oceanside school district, said the
letter failed to reflect that many of the students in the district had spent years in the
bilingual system before switching to English immersion.

''We do have students who are not fully proficient in English yet, but many of them
were participants in our former bilingual program which were essentially all-day
instruction in Spanish,'' Farley said. ''So yes, it is correct to say we do have
students in our district who are not proficient in English, but that is not necessarily a
reflection of English immersion.''

Romney cited California's experience with English immersion during Thursday
night's gubernatorial debate, saying, ''I'm not going to just talk about statistics for
you. You can look at the statistics on the Web site of the California Department of
Education and you see kids in English immersion are succeeding and kids that are
in bilingual education are not.''

A spokesman for O'Brien, Adrian Durbin, said yesterday, ''The California statistics
show clearly that the approach that Mitt Romney favors has failed. Shannon
O'Brien's top priority is to teach kids English but she does not believe that a
one-size-fits-all approach is the best for our kids.''

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 10/26/2002.
Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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