Resolution on bilingual education passed
The Taunton Gazette October 17, 2002
by Peter Gillen, Staff Writer
TAUNTON -- Taunton senior Epson Soares, 17, has passed both the English and
math MCAS exams despite
only being in the country for three years.
"The bilingual program really helped. If it weren't for the program I don't
think I would have done as well as I did,"
said the native Angolan.
School Committee members listened to Soares, community leaders and the city
legislative delegation on the
debate concerning the Nov. 5 ballot question that proposes to require districts
to use a one-year English immersion
Five School Committee members and Superintendent Donald Cleary went on record as
opposing the so-called Unz
petition that proposes English immersion rather than "transitional" bilingual
School Committee member Barry Cooperstein voted not to oppose the Unz petition
and Committee members Terry
Quinn and Josephine Almeida stated that the question should not have been
presented to the school committee in
"It's not the place for it. If you wanted to (discuss Question 2) you should
have held a public hearing," Quinn said.
Cooperstein noted his position in the minority and said he had no time to gather
supporters, so he simply read a
letter in support of the Unz proposal from the petition's initiator, Lincoln J.
Cleary defended his putting the issue on the agenda, citing the educational
impact of the initiative
About 25 supporters of transitional bilingual education -- and oppose English
immersion -- attended the meeting.
Several bilingual program graduates and students spoke in support of the
Unz initiative detractors stated the immersion program isn't working well in
Unz's home state of California, that the
initiative takes away school district flexibility and that the state legislature
has already made changes to bilingual
law to raise the bar. Finally, Unz detractor argued that the law would make it
possible for parents to sue teachers
and School Committees who do not comply with the law.
Cooperstein noted that few people opposed the Education Reform Bill in 1993,
which he said considerably reduced
During the debate, several people invoked the successes of failures of their
immigrant parents in schools without
But the most strident language came from Taunton legislators, who suggested that
those who favor English
immersion are given in to their less noble feelings and emotions.
State Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, D-Taunton, said that at the "heart and soul" of the
Unz ballot initiative in prejudice.
"Prejudice is alive and well in this petition that is on the ballot," Pacheco
State Rep. James H. Fagan, D-Taunton, played the same theme.
"The Unz petition is isolationism, that's what it is," Fagan said. "It plays on
the fears we all have of people who are
Pacheco said the new bilingual plan gives districts choices. They can, he said,
use English immersion, or
transitional bilingual classes that aim for a two year transition period.
School Committee member Alfred Baptista took exception to a portion of the
Tamayo letter read by Cooperstein.
"Finally, it is the last refuge of scoundrels to say that Ballot Question 2 is
'anti-immigrant' or racist. Our worst public
figures use this divisive tactic when they have no solid arguments or evidence
to rely upon," Tamayo said.
"The first refuge of a scoundrel is to say that anyone who doesn't agree with
you is a scoundrel," Baptista said.
Baptista then questioned Tamayo's credential on bilingual education, saying he
was principal at one of the lowest
performing high schools in the state.
Unz drew applause when he wondered out loud how Unz would fare if he took
"graduate courses in philosophy in a