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Blogging politics, elections and the Capitol with the Austin bureau

September 29, 2008

Bilingual ed opinion could have major impact

A bilingual education issue headed for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott could blow up the public education budget
or force state lawmakers to decide if they want multiple bilingual education programs - or none.
And that's exactly what State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, had in mind when he asked
board Chairman Don McLeroy, R-Bryan, Monday to request the attorney general's opinion.
When it comes to bilingual education programs, the state of Texas only accommodates Spanish-speaking students.
But state law requires that public school districts "shall offer a bilingual education or special language program" if they
enroll at least 20 students of limited English proficiency in any language classification in the same grade level.
State education officials say dozens of foreign languages would qualify for bilingual education under a strict interpretation (1 of 2) [10/3/2008 6:44:22 PM]
of the law.
In Texas last year, more than 14,000 school children spoke Vietnamese. Other popular foreign languages included:
Urdu (national language of Pakistan), 3,627 students; Arabic, 3,594 students; Korean, 3,195 students; and
Mandarin Chinese, 2,054 students.
Last year, Texas enrolled 775,432 students considered limited English proficient - with more than 711,000 Spanish-
speaking students.
The attorney general will be asked whether Texas must adopt textbooks, assessments and teacher certification programs
to provide equal opportunity for all languages that meet the requirements of the state education code.
Bradley believes the attorney general has no choice but to produce an opinion that follows the law. And it would cost
millions of dollars to comply.
"The Legislature will have to decide - do we want to do bilingual education in Texas - because it's all or none," Bradley
said. "Do we need to develop these massive curriculums and textbooks and assessments for all foreign languages and not
be discriminating for doing it in Spanish?"
Vietnamese families could press a discrimination suit, he suggested, but they have not done so "because those parents
want their children taught in English."
Bradley speculated, "At the end of the day, I think we offer no bilingual education ... Do you want to use bilingual
education, or do you want to use immersion? The Legislature has to make a decision."
The number of limited English proficient students is growing by big numbers in Texas - jumping from 570,453 in 2000-01
to more than 775,000 last year.
"The Legislature has to determine what is the most effective route to accomplish English proficiency," said State Board
of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond.
Here is a section in the education code that Bradley wants the attorney general to address:
Continue reading "Bilingual ed opinion could have major impact"
Posted by Gary Scharrer at 05:29 PM in Public education | Comments (1) (2 of 2) [10/3/2008 6:44:22 PM]

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