NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 20, 1996

The Oakland, California, School Board has just recognized Ebonics -- or "black English" -- as a separate language and mandated that teachers be trained in it. They will then teach the 53 percent of their students who are black to use it to decode standard English.

Critics say it is a cynical move which has less to do with education than money.

  • By putting "Ebonics" in the category of a non-English language, Oakland hopes to become eligible for bilingual education funds, critics say.
  • Teachers' unions are well aware that teachers in Los Angeles who pass a bilingual proficiency test get $2,000 more per year -- and another $5,000 more if they earn a bilingual certificate of competence.

This is happening even as bilingual education in the state is getting a bad name.

  • Hispanic parents have started protesting schools placing their children in separate classes that don't teach English.
  • Moreover, the state's Little Hoover Commission -- a watchdog agency -- has called bilingual education "inappropriate, unwarranted, not feasible and counterproductive."
  • It found that the number of students with limited English grew from 431,449 in 1982 to 1,078,705 in 1992.
  • Meanwhile, the number who graduate to English proficiency is stuck at 50,000 a year.
  • This means that thousands of students are trapped for eight years or more in non-English classes.

Source: Editorial, "Lucrative Language," Investor's Business Daily, December 20, 1996.


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