NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Center for Equal Opportunity Study: Bilingual Education in 10 States

April 1, 1997

The original intent of bilingual education was to help Hispanic children quickly learn to speak, read and write in English. Today, bilingual education has a different agenda. It deliberately delays teaching English on the mistaken assumption that children first need to receive five to seven years of formal classroom instruction in their native language -- leaving non-English speaking students stranded outside the mainstream.

  • Bilingual education programs in Chicago fail almost 80 percent of the time to get students into mainstream classes within the established three-year limit.
  • Some students spend their entire 12 years in school without ever learning enough English to get out of the bilingual program.
  • California insists on mandating bilingual education even though a state oversight agency has labeled it divisive, wasteful and unproductive.

In some states, children are put in bilingual programs simply because they have Hispanic surnames -- even if they don't speak Spanish -- while parents frequently find it difficult to get them out of such programs. But across the country, parents and students are making their displeasure known:

  • Almost a third of all students are removed from the Chicago program by their parents.
  • Hispanic parents in Los Angeles kept their children out of school for almost two weeks to protest the lack of English instruction in their school's bilingual education program.
  • Hispanic parents in New York City sued to get their children out of bilingual programs, complaining that many of the teachers spoke no English and that after several years their children were still unable to read or write in either language.
  • Hispanic students in the bilingual education program at New Mexico's Los Lunas High School walked out of school to protest the lack of English tutoring.

Yet ineffective bilingual programs continue, and educators refuse to listen to parents and students. The co-chairman of the New Jersey Bilingual Council recently spoke against allowing parents to remove their children from the program, saying: "Why would we require parents unfamiliar with our educational system to make such monumental decisions when we as bilingual educators...are trained to make those decisions?"

Source: Jorge Amselle, "Bilingual Education: A Ten State Report Card," Policy Brief, April 1997, Center For Equal Opportunity, 815 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 928, Washington, DC 20004, (202) 639-0827.


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