Is the Plan?
From El Diario
By Fernando Ferrer
week, mayor Michael R. Bloomberg promises to present his guarded plan for bilingual
education, which will affect the hundreds of thousands of students that learn
English in our public school system.
It's about time. This plan has been delayed
twice already in less than a year.
The delays, the little recourses and the
political intrigue have plagued bilingual education since its commencement in
Two years of legal battle ensued against the [Department] of Education of
the City of New York. ASPIRA, an organization which works for the development
of Puertorican and Latino youth, was represented by the Puertorican Fund for Legal
Defense and Education (PRLDEF). ASPIRA maintained that a Federal Court should
order that, among other things, a program should be established in order that
the Spanish speaking students can participate effectively in the learning
process in their native language.
And for almost thirty years since the
Decree de Consent of ASPIRA was emitted, all the sectors involved have engaged
in one of the worst battles of the Cultural Wars." Unfortunately, as
in many wars the innocents and the truth are those that suffer most.
most recent plan for bilingual education is designed through a political adjustment.
After several years of attacks against bilingualism on the part of the California
politician Ron Unz and other extremists on the right, the then mayor Rudy Giuliani,
impressed by the equally right wing ideologies in New York, promised to clean
up bilingual education and designated a commission directed by ex-Vice Mayor
According to Dr. Luis O. Reyes, an old education activist and
ex-member of the [Department of Education of the City of New York] the negotiations
mostly secret took place among the PRLDEF and old functionaries
of the Giuliani and Mastro Administration. The result: a dissolution of the original
focus towards bilingualism as it was specified in the Decree of Consent of ASPIRA.
Then-Chancellor of education Harold Levy announced a new plan of informed
decision for children that technically need bilingual education, which includes
programs like Immersion in English. The two key characteristics of
this new plan were making information available to parents on studies and the
designation of $75 million dollars to finance new scholarly programs and to orient
It seemed like a victory, but there were 2 small exceptions: the
$75 million were never given and, in many schools, the diverse bilingual programs
were never implemented, leaving parents without options.
happened behind closed doors and the community benefited very little. Those
seeking to dismantle bilingual education left winning effortlessly.
when it comes to the education and future of the 40 percent of public school students
that speak a diverse group of foreign languages, the decisions continue being
made behind closed doors.
On the 15th of January 2003, the day on which Martin
Luther Kings birthday is celebrated, mayor Bloomberg announced in Harlem
a dramatic restructuring of the public school system, including a change in curriculum.
He also promised that, in the span of 60 days, he would present a plan to better
the education of English Language Learners. This date arrived and nothing happened.
A second date was also passed without any action.
When parents asked about
their plans for bilingual education, during the recent meeting in Manhattan of
a panel on education and politics, Chancellor Klein responded, mayor Bloomberg
will have an announcement in the next month. Well, we are now in that next
Margaret McHugh, who directs the Immigration Coalition of New York,
has united with the organization Defenders of the Children and 8 other groups
to take this debate into public light.
Our initiative seeks to form an
open dialogue on how to improve the results of this type of student, that have
the highest rate of school desertion in the public system, said McHugh in
spreading 10 point plan in order to reform the education of students that learn
English as a second language.
Parents must have real options among high quality
programs that receive adequate funds in the School Districts. The department of
education must obey federal law and the Decree of consent of ASPIRA. The English
as a Second Language (ESL) programs need to improve. It is necessary to contract
bilingual teachers and that are qualified and certified in ESL. They should not
continue sending English Language Learners to special education programs. These
should be some of the reforms. Its reasonable. Year after year and promise
after promise, it is the same old story with bilingual education. The political
ideology continues imposing scientific dates.
For those who say that their
decisions are based on the facts before the politics, here are the facts: The
innovator Estudio Collier of 1995 made a great impact on the large scale of various
learning programs of a second language by the United States, the students with
the greatest success were in a bilingual program for a long time. The students
with the least success were in classes of English Immersion or in
bilingual programs that were discontinued in 2 or 3 years with no regard to the
needs of the children.
For the first time, we put to the side the political
ideology and analyze the facts. And, one day, we will bring this debate to the
public forum instead of behind a closed door.
Translated from Spanish by
to The Citizen Page