Mass Immigration Leaves School Bond Voters No Good Options
Sometimes, I`m confused.
Recently, as an example, I went to the Tokay High
School International Dance Festival. Tokay High is one
of two ethnically diverse high schools in Lodi. I know
some of the students in the show and didn`t want to
disappoint them by not going.
Before the performance started, I strolled through
the Ethnic Food Bazaar and ordered the sweet and sour
pork with fried rice. Not bad for $3.
Then, I watched the kids go through the Vietnamese,
Cambodian and Latino routines. The stands were packed
with cheering parents and friends. This was a happy time
for the highschoolers and their families.
As I watched the Asians, I realized that these are
the youngest of the refugee children. The Tran and Xiong
families have named their kids James and Jennifer. These
youngsters are U. S citizens and apparently part of the
American fabric. (“Apparently” because that`s what
American neighbors of the bar-haunting 9/11 hijackers
Recent statistics from the California Department of
Education show that English Language Learners whose
primary language was Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, or
Lao are in steady decline after peaking in the early
1990s. They`ve “mainstreamed” – to use a term educators
are fond of.
Only a handful of these assimilated children can tell
you anything about the
Vietnam War. I felt a strange sense of relief about
Whatever else may lie ahead, a debate about the
merits of diversity is not in their future. This
generation of Californians was raised singing the
praises of diversity. While many critics question
whether schools can teach reading, writing and
arithmetic, no one doubts that when a California student
get his high-school diploma, he has earned the
equivalent of a Ph.D. in
Which particularly matters when you look at the other
half of the equation—the school`s Mexican population.
Some of these children are U.S. citizens but many are
not. And unlike the Southeast Asian immigrants whose
arrivals into California peaked at 30,000 annually but
have dwindled to 6,500 in 1998, the Mexicans keep coming
and coming and coming.
The impact of this
unending stream of students into the California
schools cannot be overemphasized.
Here is a thumbnail sketch of California K-12 public
schools: 6 million students, 2 million housed in
temporary trailers, and 1.5 million English learners. As
long as those abysmal conditions continue or if they
worsen (as they will), talk of raising public school
standards is nonsense.
A new report by the
Public Policy Institute of California,
“The Linguistic Landscape of California Schools,” [263
KB PDF document] tells the whole dismal story.
During the twenty years from 1981 to 2000, the number of
“English-learners” i.e. non-English speakers in the San
Joaquin Valley increased 516%. An astounding figure, but
only good enough for fifth place statewide behind the
Inland Empire, 656%; Sacramento area, 596%; Mountain
Area, 543% and the Sacramento Valley, 533%.
Spanish-speaking English learners account for 83% of the
1.5 million non-English speakers in California public
My own school district,
Lodi Unified, reflects these enrollment and language
figures. “English learners” make up nearly 30% of the
27,000 students. The Asian enrollment is 20% and
These statistics represent more than just raw
numbers. On March 5th, for the fifth time in twelve
years, LUSD tried to raise money through a
school bond issue. It passed only narrowly; the four
previous attempts were soundly defeated.
The need for money is acute. Because the Lodi schools
are so overcrowded, under a year-round schedule students
only attend class 163 days a year instead of the normal
180. The system is designed for 20,000 students but has
to accommodate 27,000. High schools built to hold 1,800
must fit 2,500. Access to computers, lab classes, fine
arts and physical education facilities is severely
Why did the good people of Lodi vote “No” four
straight times? Despite the pleas from school district
officials that new schools are needed “for our
children,” the resistance indicates that Lodians might
be aware that not all of the students are “our
children.” Why should they vote their tax dollars to
finance the educations of children from around the world
– many of whom are here because they or their parents
entered the country illegally?
Immigration has left the community with no good
options. A “No” vote dooms the children – including,
importantly, their own – to many more years of a
substandard learning environment. As the enrollment
continues to grow, the
crowding will worsen. And ultimately California will
have a larger undereducated population than we already
do. Believe me, that is a frightening thought.
A “Yes” vote, on the other hand, reinforces the “send
them and we will build” message. California cannot keep
pace with unchecked immigration—not in our
schools, not in our
emergency rooms and not in our housing, highways or
The school bond issue got only 57% of the vote. That
would not have been enough without
Proposition 39, passed in November 2000, which
reduced the 2/3 requirements for school bond passage to
As for my own vote, I didn`t like either option. As I
said earlier, I`m confused a lot of the time.
But in the end, I voted “no.”
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.