NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bilingual Ed Hangs On Despite Public Rejection

August 17, 2001

Trying to kill a government program that has created and nurtured its own constituencies is a Herculean task. So it is with bilingual education. Voters have rejected it and studies have condemned it for holding students back from learning and entering mainstream America. But critics observe that it is tenacious and continues to exact its toll.

  • Although New York City's School Board voted in February to let parents choose a more English-intensive program as a bilingual alternative, that probably won't go very far because the city remains under a 1974 consent decree in which it agreed to provide native language instruction.
  • In Oakland, Calif., some 40 percent of immigrant students were granted waivers from attending mostly-English immersion-method classes -- even though only 1 percent of limited-English students were graduating each year in English-only classes.
  • Foes of bilingual education, including California businessman Ron Unz, led a successful ballot drive against bilingual education in Arizona last year and have initiated campaigns in Colorado and Massachusetts this year -- but states such as New York, Illinois and Texas are out-of-bounds because they don't have an initiative process.
  • Political observers hold little or no hope that state legislatures will step in to curb bilingual education abuses -- because the issue is just too ethnically charged.

On the federal level, President Bush is trying to rid federal law of its pro-bilingual tilt. His education reforms would scrap the rule that 75 percent of funds for limited-English students go toward native-language instruction.

But that may not help much when most states seem inclined to keep bilingual instruction as it is.

Source: Tom Gray, "Bilingual Ed Hasn't Done the Job, So Why Do Schools Continue It?" Investor's Business Daily, August 17, 2001.


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