BOUDREAUX TRIES TO WIN SUPPORT FOR EBONICS PLAN
By AMY PYLE, Times Education Writer
Los Angeles school board member Barbara Boudreaux, in an attempt to gain her colleagues' support for her Ebonics resolution, further softened it Thursday by offering to delete the word Ebonics and to include all students with language difficulties.
Boudreaux's proposed amendments came at the end of an angry three-hour meeting of the instructional committee, in which African Americans who support her measure charged that other board members are delaying a decision out of cowardice and political concerns.
Genethia Hayes, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, criticized the Board of Education for being "worried about the political ramifications" andwhether they "are going to get reelected."
Following the lead of the Oakland Unified School District, Boudreaux--Los AngelesUnified's only black board member--two weeks agoproposed a resolution to acknowledge Ebonics asa distinct language and to train all teachers inhow to teach mainstream English to African American students who use the speech patterns.
On Thursday, Boudreaux said she would tryto push the board to make a decision on Feb. 10 about whether to seek funds to expand two existing language development programs, which together cost about $3.1 million and reach fewer than half of the district's 93,000 black students.
"It's a test for our community, a test for our board to see if you really want to address the needs of African American students," she said.
Her offer to delete any mention of the word Ebonics first arose Monday, when Boudreaux said some people had been "scared to death" by the term, a combination of "ebony" and "phonics."
No mention of that deletion or other amendments was made by instructional committee members Thursday, however. Instead, they asked questions about the lack of student performance evaluations of existing programs and probed other alternatives.
Jeff Horton, the committee's chairman and the board president, suggested that three other districtwide teacher training programs, in techniques for teaching reading and working with Spanish-speaking children, could be expanded to include a segment on African American speech patterns.
"I share your outrage about the low performance of many students," Horton told the critics. "That's why we're here and why we have the policy and practices we have now."
Many of those who spoke, however, said a more comprehensive effort is needed to fill what they perceive as a wide gap between policy and practice.
"We continue to give rhetoric in the Los Angeles Unified School District that all children are important, but do we really mean that?" asked Willie Crittendon, president of the Council of Black Administrators.
Horton and member Mark Slavkin both left before the end of committee meeting, drawing further ire from some of the audience.
Not all of the more than two dozen speakers at Thursday's hearing supported Boudreaux. For instance, Ralph A. Wright, an African American teacher from Jefferson High, said black English should be left at the classroom door because it "is a sloppy language and it encourages sloppy thinking."
Likewise, parent representative David Lugo said that the whole issue is divisive and makes him feel bad. The school board, he said in Spanish, "should support all children, especially minorities."
After the meeting, Boudreaux said she would make her own revisions before the Feb. 10 board meeting--including adding provisions for language support for all students who struggle with mainstream English, not just African Americans, a change requested by board member Vicki Castro.
She said she was optimistic that the changes would increase its chances for approval, but then added: "It's my feeling that the board will be playing some political games around the motion. They'll say there won't be enough money . . . that it will hurt the April [school construction] bond election."
Regardless of how the board votes on the resolution, Boudreaux said she will not let the issue die, and vowed to create future motions to address writing and math needs of African American and other students.
"This," she said, "is just the tip of the iceberg."
* EBONICS AS A TOOL
At Audubon Middle School, Ebonics is one of several strategies used to teach English. E1