Salinas district joins lawsuit
Monterey Herald Salinas Bureau
Jun. 01, 2005
By MARC CABRERA
The statewide suit targets the federal No Child Left Behind Act
Acting on behalf of a large percentage of English-learning students, the
Salinas Union High School District has added its name to a growing list of state
districts opposed to federal academic performance standards.
The district's board of trustees voted 6-1 last week to join nine other school
California school districts, including the Coachella Valley Unified school
District, in a lawsuit against the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Longtime
trustee Jim Reavis was the only no vote.
The lawsuit demands the state test school children whose first language is not
English, and who are not yet proficient in English, in their native language. In
the case of most Salinas schools, that would be Spanish.
"More than 80 percent of the students are Latino in the district," said Phillip
Tabera, board president. "At least half of those students are English learners
at various levels."
The lawsuit, anticipated to be filed today in San Francisco Superior Court,
challenges California's testing of English learners based on the federal act.
A news conference is scheduled for later today in Los Angeles where
representatives from the California Association of Bilingual Education,
Californians Together and the California League of United Latin American
Citizens will speak out in favor of the suit.
Tabera, along with board Vice President Kathryn Ramirez and Secretary Sandra
Villareal-Ocampo, pushed the district to join the suit.
"We caught wind of it after the Alisal Union School District became a plaintiff
in the lawsuit," Tabera said.
Alisal, which feeds into Salinas Union High School, was the first district in
Monterey County to join the lawsuit. That district has an English-learning
population of 69 percent, mostly Mexican-American children who speak Spanish as
their first language.
In a district such as the Salinas Union High School District, English learners
account for 37 percent, or a little more than 5,300 of the district's 13,000
Tabera said the district hopes to get the federal government to look at other
means of measuring student success. Currently, the state uses English-only
standardized tests to measure student growth.
"Over the last four to five years, we've been able to measure some substantial
growth with our students," Tabera said. "One of the things we've tried to
advocate is for the feds (federal government) to look at a growth model as
opposed to English-language test scores."
Tabera was optimistic that the district would rally behind the cause.
"It was really good to see that the majority of our board supported getting
involved with our lawsuit."