Lawmakers preserve 'two-way' language programs

Associated Press, 7/14/2003

By Ken Maguire

BOSTON -- The Senate followed the House on Monday in preserving exemptions to the new "English immersion" law by overriding Gov. Mitt Romney's vetoes.

"Two-way" bilingual programs would be exempted from the new law, which replaced multi-year bilingual programs with one-year, all-English classes intended to quickly move non-English speaking students into regular classes.

The programs teach students in two languages. Supporters of the programs say they help immigrant students to learn English and help English speakers to learn a second language.

"Two-way immersion wasn't what that ballot question was about," said Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge. "The highest scoring children who are English language learners ... are those children in two-way immersion programs."

Romney had vetoed exemptions in the state budget, arguing that voters last fall overwhelmingly approved the English immersion ballot question, which ended all of the state's bilingual education programs.

Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, R-East Longmeadow, said that by voting to override the vetoes, senators are saying voters "aren't smart enough to make a decision for themselves."

"They have been privately running around this building saying that," Lees said. "That is disgusting."

About 2,000 students in 12 districts are enrolled in two-way bilingual programs, such the Amigos program, a K-8 school in the Cambridge Public Schools where more than 300 students study in English and Spanish, alternating languages each week.

Five vetoes -- preserving two-way bilingual programs and related parental rights and program accountability -- passed the Senate on 28-9 votes.