N.Y. Mayor Overhauls Bilingual Education; Bloomberg's Plan Has Students Taking Courses in First Language and English
Byline: Liz Trotta, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
NEW YORK - Bilingual education in the city's public schools, judged a failure by just about every study and standard, has always served as a political trap waiting for unwary politicians in this city of immigrants.
So when as a mayoral candidate Michael R. Bloomberg declared himself an advocate of English-only education, parent groups and conservative educators held their breath.
Once elected, it did not take long for Mr. Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat who gained a ballot position by turning Republican, to realize his mistake. Faced with plummeting popularity ratings, especially among Hispanics, the mayor reversed course and announced that more teachers and materials are the answer to creating a successful bilingual education program.
As part of a heralded makeover of the city's public schools system, the administration has committed $20 million to the program, which allows students to take their core academic courses in their native tongue whether it is Spanish, Haitian or Chinese while taking English courses.
"I've been in the business of bilingual education for a long time, and this is first time I feel that the mayor has a plan based on education, not politics," said Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, president of the Hispanic Federation, an organization of social service groups.
"Now we can talk about merits rather than whether it's anti-American and anti-patriotic," she added. "An insufficient number of trained teachers and the poorest resources have handicapped the program from the start."
The rationale for bilingual education as opposed to English "immersion," in which students must take all their courses in English rests on the argument that students will perform poorly without a gradual introduction of English into all study courses.
Mrs. Cortes-Vazquez is typical of the entrenched interests that have made bilingual education a virtual untouchable issue. In a city overwhelmingly in favor of liberal Democrats who favor spending on social programs, rare is the voice raised against this program. …