English for the Children of New York?

Just two short months ago, the New York Times—America’s national newspaper of record—unleashed the current debate on bilingual education programs with a Page One lead story on California’s success with English immersion in the wake of Prop. 227.

Now the New York Daily News—that city’s 700,000-plus circulation “Hometown Newspaper”—has entered the fray, with powerful back-to-back lead editorials over this weekend, describing the decades’ long failure of bilingual education and urging New York politicians to summon the courage to follow California’s lead in dismantling those harmful programs. The generally liberal Daily News closely reflects the ideas and opinions of its city’s residents and political leaders.

The smaller, much more conservative New York Post has long been sharply critical of bilingual education, and although the New York Times’s editorial page has not recently addressed the subject, it several years ran an editorial condemning New York’s system of bilingual education as a “prison” for immigrant children.

Numerous polls have shown near-80% support among New York voters for requiring all public school instruction to be conducted in English. Al Shanker, the late and legendary founder of New York’s powerful teachers’ union, was for decades America’s strongest national critic of bilingual programs, and Herman Badillo, the Grand Old Man of New York Hispanic politics, has long been outspoken about the terrible harms which bilingual programs inflict on Hispanic children.

In coming months, we’ll begin to see whether New York’s current political leaders are willing to do what is both right and overwhelmingly, enormously popular by acting to give New York’s immigrant children the wonderful “Gift of English.”

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