Last week, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Bilingual Education Task Force held public hearings in City Hall to consider the implications of a new report documenting the failure of those programs.
Although numerous immigrant parents testified about their unhappiness with the Spanish-only program and their desire to have their children taught English instead, nearly all the politicians speaking proclaimed their continued allegiance to those programs, thereby receiving the cheers of the many bilingual teachers and bilingual activists attending.
A front-page Metro article in Sunday’s New York Times correctly describes the general unwillingness of the city’s political leaders to challenge the powerful bilingual establishment. Ramon Cortines, a recent New York City Schools Chancellor, describes the system as a “jobs operation,” protected by a “highly organized, politicized group of people” who are holding kids as “political pawns.” In 1994, Cortines had produced an earlier report, also concluding that bilingual education was a complete failure.
Since bilingual activists have denounced Giuliani’s recent criticism of their program as a political ploy, Cortines’s devastating description carries particular weight. Dr. Cortines, one of the very first Hispanics to lead New York Schools, was highly regarded by the city’s liberal establishment, but was hounded from office by Mayor Giuliani in 1995 after a number of personal and ideological clashes.
But while Cortines seems to support Hispanic parents’ desire for English, Mayor Giuliani and his appointees have merely proposed reforming or trimming Spanish-only programs, and may even be unwilling to fight for that.
This lack of nerve inspired yesterday’s hard- hitting editorial in the liberal New York Daily News, which criticized Giuliani for seeking a bilingual ed “cop-out.”