Bilingualism is faulty investment
The Waco Tribune-Herald
January 17, 2005
DAN MONTGOMERY Guest column
FREDERICKSBURG When a state district judge in Austin
recently declared the state school finance system unconstitutional, the
main reason given was that the school funding law violates the Texas
Constitution's requirement that the state provide sufficient funding for public
The judge seemed to rely heavily on the testimony of the state demographer
who said that much of our school enrollment growth is represented by
immigrants who have limited English skills and tend to be economically
The implication is that more money is needed because an increasing number
of our students are "more difficult to teach" because they are poor and speak
very little English.
Traditionally, the method used to accomplish this task is bilingual
education, a program that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
But the judge said nothing about the effectiveness of this program. As far
as I can tell, there was no testimony provided that gave him any guidance one
way or the other.
I am unaware of any empirical studies that show that the billions of
dollars spent nationwide on this program have yielded any positive results. In
fact, most education experts feel that it has been a dismal failure.
Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett calls bilingual education a
"politically inspired semi-hoax on millions of immigrant children."
He says that "for many students, it slows rather than speeds up their
evolution into young Americans who are comfortable, fluent, and successful in
In spite of the lack of research supporting the effectiveness of bilingual
education, Texas law says that "any school district with an enrollment of 20 or
more students of limited English proficiency in the same grade level must offer
a bilingual education program in the elementary grades."
They have the option of offering either bilingual education or English as
a second language (ESL) in middle school and must offer ESL in high school. The
good news is that the parents may choose to opt their children out of these
programs, and many do.
Our schools should use immersion methods to ensure that all children who
don't speak English learn it as quickly as possible.
This means that students spend most of the day in regular English-speaking
Change should not be difficult. All branches of state government are
controlled by Republicans, and the state Republican Party platform calls for the
"termination of bilingual education programs." Yet very little has been done.
Maybe we will see something constructive in this legislative session that
would benefit thousands of limited English-proficient students and provide a
good start toward solving our present school funding crisis.
Dan Montgomery of Fredericksburg represents District 5 on the State Board
The Waco Tribune-Herald