Posted on January 12, 2005

Education Official is Targeted

Duke Helfand and Jordan Rau, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11

A senior member of the state Board of Education who has advocated English-language reading instruction for immigrant children could lose his position on Wednesday amid a furor raised by bilingual education advocates.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Democratic political donor Reed Hastings was appointed to the state education board by former Gov. Gray Davis in 2000. He was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last January, but must be confirmed this week by the state Senate.

On Wednesday, Hastings is scheduled to appear before the Senate Rules Committee, where he must gain three of five votes before his confirmation reaches the full Senate. But a powerful Latino lawmaker and vocal groups including the California Assn. for Bilingual Education have mounted a campaign to kill his confirmation.

They complain that Hastings — who founded Netflix, the movie mail-order rental service — has shown insensitivity to the needs of immigrants, primarily Spanish-speaking students.

While Hastings was president of the state board, he and his colleagues adopted a policy that required elementary schools to teach students 2 1/2 hours a day in English to qualify for special federal reading funds. A subsequent law overrode the state board policy, making the funds available to bilingual classrooms where students were learning in Spanish.

California law requires elementary school students to be taught in English, the result of Proposition 227, approved by voters in 1998. But parents can request bilingual education, and about 120,000 students in kindergarten through fourth grade attend such programs.