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Education Law

Bilingual Education

Bilingual education purports to make use of both the English language and a child's native language for educational instruction. It is premised upon the belief that this approach enables children to grasp the tenets of basic mathematics, science, and social studies in their own language, while simultaneously being exposed to English instruction. In theory it works, but in reality, children have reverted to their native language or have resisted communicating in English, much to the growing frustration of educators and the taxpayers who are saddled with the financial burdens brought to them by poor academic performance in the school systems.

After sinking millions of taxpayer dollars into bilingual education, many taxpayers in California decided to express their opinions at the voting booths. The California Department of Finance estimated that for the 1997-98 school year, California had spent 70 percent of its $385 million earmarked for economically disadvantaged children in bilingual programs.

California's Proposition 227 in 1998 mandated the termination of California's bilingual education program. Although passed into law by California voters with a resounding 61-39 percent victory in June 1998, the new law was immediately challenged in a CLASS ACTION suit filed in federal district court by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE of Los Angeles, and several other parties. But within the first eight weeks of the election, legal challenges in both northern and southern federal district courts were resolved in favor of Proposition 227, and on July 31, 1998, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the Northern District's opinion.

Although the minority of states specially require bilingual education, the majority provide some sort of funding for these programs. Three states, including Arkansas, Delaware, and Nebraska, specifically forbid bilingual education. Because more than three million students in the United States speak little or no English, this issue has remained heated into the new millennium.

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