North Country Times
March 7, 2003
by ADAM KAYE
A Superior Court ruling on Thursday could open the door to millions of
dollars that could help California's immigrant children learn how to read.
For some schools in Vista and Escondido, hundreds of thousands of dollars
in federal grants hang in the balance.
In a lawsuit filed this week in San Francisco Superior Court, a coalition of
parents and civil rights groups accused top state education officials of
unlawfully implementing the federal Reading First grant program.
The state's policy for handling the grant, which totals $133 million per year
for six years in California, effectively prevents schools with bilingual programs
from collecting the funds, the plaintiffs argue.
Part of the Reading First grants fund teacher training and supplemental
materials for kindergarten through third grade.
On Thursday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Quidachay
ruled that the state must justify its eligibility requirements for the grant
program. He set a March 26 hearing date.
"We are extremely pleased with the court's decision," said Mary Hernandez, a
Carlsbad attorney employed by Multicultural Education Training and
Advocacy, one of eight civil rights firms in the state involved in the lawsuit. "I
believe that the state defendants will not be able to justify their discriminatory
actions and that we will continue to prevail."
"The state defendants must stop making backroom political decisions that
deny funds and programs to some of our state's neediest children," she said.
Attorneys for the state Department of Education would not comment on the
But state Education Department spokesman Phil Garcia said the California
Reading First Plan adheres to federal guidelines, which set a goal for
students to be able to read at grade level in English by the end of third grade.
In addition to the state Department of Education, the lawsuit names the state
Board of Education and superintendent of public instruction as defendants.
On Thursday, attorneys for the state told Quidachay the state will hold off on
distributing Reading First funds until April 9 at the earliest.
Hernandez said the plaintiffs will ask the judge to order the state to extend its
deadline for applying for Reading First funds, if eligibility requirements
At the heart of the case is a state law that requires public school students to
receive instruction in English unless their parents sign waivers allowing them
to be taught in their native tongue.
For bilingual programs to qualify for Reading First funds, they must provide
up to 2 1/2 hours of English language instruction every day.
That rule effectively eliminates bilingual classes from eligibility, said Carlos
Ulloa, a reading specialist at Escondido's Lincoln primary and intermediate
A declaration by Ulloa is included in the lawsuit.
In an interview Thursday, Ulloa said the state's implementation of Reading
First disqualifies Lincoln from netting up to $300,000 a year for six years.
When he researched the program at the federal level, Ulloa said he found no
mention of restrictions for bilingual programs. The California Department of
Education's Web site presented contrary information, however, so Ulloa
called a federal Department of Education attorney who oversees Reading
In his declaration, Ulloa wrote, the attorney "told me that (she) had been
receiving lots of calls from California regarding this issue and thought maybe
the U.S. Department of Education might need to give guidance to California
on it. When I described the exclusionary eligibility rules, she also commented
that California must like lawsuits and suggested that it was a lawsuit waiting to
At Vista Unified School District, Crestview, Grapevine and Bobier schools
serve more than 1,000 students in bilingual programs.
If future court rulings ease state restrictions on Reading First funds, the
schools could be eligible for annual grants of up to $100,000 each.
"We're in a wait and see mode right now," said Assistant Superintendent Gail
Ryan. "They're operating the Reading First grant like the budget ---- there's
nothing that's decisive."
Castle Park Elementary Principal Carlos Ulloa
...[Carlos] Ulloa... is the director of curriculum and instruction for the
San Ysidro School District.
A Carlsbad resident living within the San Marcos district, Ulloa ran for the
school board two years ago.
"The reason I'm running is to use my 20 years of experience in education to
improve the quality of education for all students," he said, adding that he
thinks the district is on the right track. "A huge achievement gap exists with
Latinos and whites and with Asians and whites. I want to narrow the
achievement gap for all students."
Ulloa earned a master's degree in education from Harvard University in 1998
and was the principal of Castle Park Elementary School in Chula Vista for
three years. He grew up in Escondido.
|San Diego Education Report
Old Adobe Union School
District--K-8 dual immersion
Founding Principal of Loma
Vista Immersion Academy
Director of Curriculum and
San Ysidro School District
2008 – 2012 (4 years)