The best single hint of the meaninglessness of yesterday’s vote for bilingual education “reform” by New York City’s Board of Education was its 7- to-0 nature: substantive action on highly contentious issues is hardly likely to ever be so unanimous.
Examining the proposal shows these suspicions are warranted, though the front page placement of the story in the metropolitan edition of the New York Times would seem to indicate otherwise. Since the Board had refused to consider challenging the 1974 *Aspira* federal court order that requires Hispanic students to be taught their subjects in Spanish, most of their proposed changes amount to mere window-dressing.
The Board suggested that limited-English students no longer be automatically placed in bilingual classes, but as attorneys made clear, the court order requires exactly this, so the Board’s position is moot. Anyway, the substantive difference between automatic in theory and automatic in practice is not an enormous one, and California’s pre-Prop. 227 programs were always voluntary in theory. The Board also urged that immigrant parents be informed of their educational options—which had allegedly been the case already—and indicated that students should normally remain in the program for no more than three years, which was already required—though widely disregarded—under New York State law.
Given the legal constraints imposed by Aspira, the main reason that about half of New York City’s 160,000 immigrant students are currently being taught in English rather than in Spanish has been the severe shortage of bilingual teachers, a perfect example of educational insanity being tempered by administrative incompetence. Perversely, the one substantive aspect of the proposed “reforms” will be to allocate an extra $75 million to the program’s annual budget, much of which will be used to hire additional bilingual teachers, thereby ensuring that in future years, ever fewer students will be taught English.
It is rather shocking to realize that even the PARENTS of many of the students currently enrolled in New York City’s Spanish-almost-only classes had not been born when a well-intentioned but severely misguided federal judge decided in 1974 that New York’s Hispanic students should be taught in Spanish. Some bad policies seem to have gained immortality.
- Board Revamps Bilingual Education, Giving Parents More Choice
New York Times, Wednesday, February 28, 2001
- Bilingual Overhaul Gives Pupils Greater Choice
New York Daily News, Tuesday, February 27, 2001
- Don’t Cast Vote for Failure, Editorial
New York Daily News, Saturday, February 24, 2001