Original URL:  http://www2.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/edta10272002.htm

Let's drain the swamp: `Yes' on Question 2
A Boston Herald editorial
Sunday, October 27, 2002

It's amazing that the teachers unions think their best argument against Question 2 - which would require that all public
school students be taught mostly in English (saving the native tongue for special help) - to put before the public on
the November ballot is that some teacher might somehow, somewhere, someday get sued.

Question 2 is the best hope yet for draining the swamp that bilingual education has become, and teachers are posing
as victims? Spare us.

The proposed law would permit civil suits by parents only for ``repeated and willful'' failure to obey the law - exactly
the same provision found in the California and Arizona versions of the statute. That's a tall hurdle for any plaintiff. No
teacher in California or Arizona has been sued. But it's important that parents have some recourse because the
Department of Education has been so lax in holding districts to the requirements of the failed 1971 law.

In his informative series on bilingual education last week, Herald reporter Ed Hayward noted that current law is
supposed to keep students in ``transitional'' bilingual classes (where instruction in academic subjects is supposed to be
in the native language) for three years at most. Yet 7,600 students - more than a fifth - have been in bilingual classes
more than four years; in other words, for five or more years.

That's another way of saying there are 7,600 real victims of a ``separate but equal'' ghetto.

Opponents have spread horror stories about how this or that program would be ended if Question 2 passed. But the
measure provides ample flexibility for exceptions if parents request and the school staff agrees they are appropriate.

Opponent also say students in California and Arizona have not benefited. But here's the telling evidence of
improvement: Before the California reforms, only 21 percent of Latino students scored at or above the statewide
median in reading; three years later, 35 percent did. For math, it was 27 percent before and 46 percent three years
later. (If any group matches the state as a whole, 50 percent of the group will hit or exceed the statewide median.)

And then there's the argument that a law passed this year provides all the reform needed. But all attempts to pass
similar reforms before were blocked by the advocacy lobbies and their political allies. The new law should remain as
a backup, but the work of the real reformers - without whose initiative petition the new law never would have been
taken seriously - deserves to be given a fair trial first.

Poll after poll shows that parents overwhelmingly want their children taught in English. Reporter Hayward's series
shows how poorly these children are being educated now.

Parents know what teachers have forgotten: When you are in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. The children
deserve to be delivered from the clutches of a failed system. The Herald strongly urges a ``Yes'' vote on Question 2.