Teachers Union Pushes the Bilingual Education Teachers Hate

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AP Photo
Newport Beach, CA

Democrat Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is leading the charge for the California Teachers Association (CTA) union in an effort to pass Proposition 58, which would revive the failed bilingual education banned by a 1998 English-only initiative.

The CTA usually puts up voter initiatives to raise more money. This year, for example, the CTA is backing Proposition 52, which raises $1.5 billion by permanently charging hospital fees, and Proposition 55, which collects $5 to $11 billion by extending Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012 income tax increases on incomes over $250,000 for single filers and over $500,000 for joint filers.

But the big surprise this year is the effort to revive California’s failed bilingual education system, which was ended in 1998 by Proposition 22, which mandated that English-only education be taught to all students. The union appears to be pushing the same screed as Senator Lara — namely, that the English-only mandate in a globalizing economy is racist.

CTA spokesman Claudia Briggs told the Sacramento Bee that the union, representing 325,000 teachers and staff, gave the pro-Prop 58 effort a $500,000 campaign contribution Aug. 11. The union’s contribution more than quadrupled what supporters had raised, and the union is considering giving money later in the campaign.

Although the union backs bilingual education, most of California’s older teachers still remember the disastrous economic impact of bilingual education on non-English speaking students from the 1960s to the 1990s.

With President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty in full swing in the mid-1960s, Latino activists began to protest what they called “racist” school policies that led to more than 50 percent school dropout rates among Spanish-speaking children.

Calling for legislation to address the “civil rights” of Spanish-speaking Cubans in Florida, Mexicans along the southern border, Puerto Ricans in the Northeast, and the Democrat-dominated Congress passed the Bilingual Education Act in 1968 as an amendment to the desegregation Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Supporters claimed, “It is not the purpose of the bill to create pockets of different languages through the country … but just to try to make those children fully literate in English.” They added that some American public schools during the eighteenth century conducted classes in German, Dutch, French, Greek, and Swedish.

But those earlier decisions on education policy were made locally by schools, churches, and cities to address local conditions. For the first time in the history of the United States, the 1968 federal legislation essentially dictated nationally that non-English-speaking children must receive bilingual instruction.

Initially funded with only $7.5 million for a number of extra teacher stipends for 3-years of bilingual transition to English for immigrant children, the federal action spawned state laws and legal decisions that eventually resulted in hundreds of thousands of teachers being paid extra stipends for teaching bilingual classes in over 40 different languages.

Professor Blandina Cárdenas of the University of Texas developed the “theory of incompatibilities” in the 1970s, which claimed Mexican-American children in the United States are so different from “majority” children that they must be given bilingual and bi-cultural instruction in order to achieve academic success. With teachers’ unions interested in expanding stipends, they declared a civil rights emergency for non-English-speaking children and convinced courts the issue was a “civil right.”

But after 30 years of bilingual education draining huge resources from classroom instruction, the U.S. Secretary of Education convened the Hispanic Dropout Project in 1995 to evaluate the credibility of the huge national commitment to bilingual education.

Research from 140 commissioned papers and site evaluations confirmed the “popular stereotypes blaming school dropout on Hispanic students, parents, or language are untrue. Such misinformation excuses inaction by turning Hispanic students into victims.”

The Dropout Project also found that many bilingual students were kept in segregated bilingual programs for over six years and never really became English proficient. The Project recommended a return to English-only “immersion” instruction.

Three years later, faced with the increasingly worse academic performance of bilingual educate students, Silicon Valley software entrepreneur Ron Unz and Santa Ana teacher Gloria Mata Tubman led a California grassroots effort that led to the passage of Proposition_227.

Now, all of that could be undone in November, and students thrown back to the past.