REFORMING BILINGUAL EDUCATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
YOUTH AND FAMILIES
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, APRIL 30, 1998
Serial No. 105-101
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
TABLE OF CONTENTS
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ROBERT LIVINGSTON, CONGRESSMAN, LOUISIANA, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE *
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE XAVIER BECERRA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AND CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS *
STATEMENT OF LINDA CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, WASHINGTON, DC *
STATEMENT OF DAVID STANDRIDGE, STANDRIDGE LAW FIRM, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO *
STATEMENT OF AMADA ARANDA, PARENT, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO *
STATEMENT OF RITA MONTERO, PARENT AND MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DENVER, COLORADO *
STATEMENT OF MARK LOPEZ, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND *
STATEMENT OF JIM BOULET, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENGLISH FIRST, SPRINGFIELD, VIRGINIA *
APPENDIX A -- WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE XAVIER BECERRA, CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
APPENDIX B -- LETTERS OF SUPPORT FOR BILINGUAL EDUCATION, SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD *
APPENDIX C -- WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE RUBÉN HINOJOSA, MEMBER OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH & FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC *
APPENDIX D -- ARTICLE BY MR. RICHARD COHEN, WASHINGTON POST, APRIL 30, 1998 *
APPENDIX E -- WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. LINDA CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, WASHINGTON, DC *
APPENDIX F -- WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DAVID STANDRIDGE, STANDRIDGE LAW FIRM, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO *
APPENDIX G -- WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. AMADA ARANDA, PARENT, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO *
HEARING REFORMING BILINGUAL EDUCATION
Thursday, April 30, 1998
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families,
Committee on Education and the Workforce
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 3:20 p.m., in Room 2175 Rayburn House Office Building, Honorable Frank Riggs [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Riggs, Martinez, Roemer, Scott, and Kucinich.
Also present: Representative Hinojosa.
Staff Present: Lynn Selmser, Professional Staff Member; Andrea Weiss, Legislative Assistant; Alex Nock, Legislative Associate; June Harris, Senior Education Coordinator, and Roxanna Polescu, Staff Assistant.
Chairman Riggs. [presiding] I'm going to call to order belatedly, and I apologize to our two colleagues and to our audience for the delay in convening this hearing of the subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families. The subject on the House floor, Opportunity Scholarships for Low-Income District of Columbia Families was sufficiently important in my opinion, that we needed to be there for the debate to help work the vote.
So, without further ado, I'm going to dispense with any opening statement. The ranking member, Mr. Martinez, has agreed to do so as well. We're going to go right to our colleagues, the first panel of witnesses, and I'll just announce to all of our witnesses today that we're very eager to hear your opinion, your views, and your recommendations with respect to bilingual education reform, in general, and specifically, the bilingual education reform legislation that I recently introduced in Congress.
I'm very, very pleased to recognize the distinguished chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, my good friend and colleague, Congressman Livingston of Louisiana. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for being here. Please proceed with your remarks.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE ROBERT LIVINGSTON, CONGRESSMAN, LOUISIANA, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Mr. Livingston. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I commend you on your approach to bilingual education because I've had a concern over this problem for many years, and like many of you on the Committee, I believe strongly that our Nation is a melting pot where peoples of all different races and nationalities come to live together, not as separate groups but as one, as Americans.
One of our Nation's greatest strengths is her diversity. We must never lose sight of the basic tide that binds us all, and that is our common language.
Teaching children in their native foreign language without regard to assimilating them in the English language inhibits their ability to learn English. For 30 years the bilingual education program has failed to demonstrate its effectiveness at teaching English. The less time you spend speaking a new language, the more slowly you learn it, and of Hispanic students in bilingual education, only half have made it to mainstream classes within three years. Over 90 percent of scientifically valid studies show that bilingual education is not better, and actually worse than doing nothing at all.
So, it should come as no surprise that immigrants oppose bilingual education. A gentleman by the name of Ernesto Ortese, a foreman on the south Texas ranches quoted as saying, ``My children learn Spanish in school so that they can grow up to be bus boys and waiters. I teach them English at home so they can grow up to be doctors and lawyers.''
In 1985, our Nation had roughly 1.5 million students with limited English proficiency. In 1995, ten years later it was nearly 3.2 million people and growing. However, we remain the only country in the world with the idea that a National language is taught best if it is withheld and administered in small doses. Teachers are forced to watch hundreds of Spanish-speaking children fully capable of mastering English within a year, denied meaningful English instruction. And this has got to end.
If we don't address this problem head-on, the consequence is going to be enormous. In 1978, the Federal Government spent a little over $7 million on bilingual education. Today, in 1997, 20 years later the Federal Government will spend roughly $384 million, and when you take into account the unfunded mandate on State and local governments, this real amount skyrockets to over $8 billion. This is just the financial impact.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the drop-out rate for Hispanic children is 30 percent compared with 12.1 percent for African-Americans, and 8.6 for traditional Anglo-Whites.
I speak about this not just in theory, Mr. Chairman. My wife and I were fortunate to have three boys, naturally, and we decided to adopt a little girl. We adopted one from Taiwan; she came to us when she was almost 7-years-of-age, and she spoke, read and wrote at about a first-grade level. Only Chinese, and frankly--obviously, there was a communication gap, because we in my family don't speak a lot of Chinese--but we immersed her in the northern Virginia public school system. They had the English as a Second Language school program in which they totally immersed her in English. She was in that class with children of virtually all identities, all nationalities, all speaking different languages, and within three months she was proficient in English.
Now she's 23-years-old, and quite productive in terms of her economic viability. And hopefully, one day when she gets married she'll be productive in other ways, too.
But, she is a gorgeous lady, and I'm very, very proud of her. And frankly, I owe her success in school primarily to the fact that she was mainstreamed in the English as a Second Language program which is a much better alternative than this notion of bilingual education which keeps kids in their own language, and prevents them from being productive, mainstream American children.
Our Nation has long valued immigrants. History reflects their enormous contribution to American society, and culture, and economic prosperity. And while we all have cultural differences, we all have a common bond, and this is the English language. I hope we can see to it that that bond is not forgotten, and that our country is not divided on linguistic lines. Our people are one. We are Americans. If we want to preserve our cultures at home, and in our communities we're free to do so, but our children should know the English language.
So I urge all of our members to take a hard look at your bill, and hopefully it will come to pass into law.
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I know you need to leave to attend to other business, but before you do I'm wondering if I could ask you to share with us the insight of the appropriators. I know that recently--correct me if I'm wrong on this--but the Appropriations Committee made some specific discretionary funding cuts to Federal bilingual programs to use those as an offset, I believe, in the supplemental bill. And looking longer-term, I'm wondering if you could share with us your thinking about further reductions in spending, vis-a-vis, the reforms that we are proposing here on this bill?
Mr. Livingston. Yes, as you can tell from my statement I feel very strongly about this position, and I had hoped that we would be able to substantially trim the bilingual program through the supplemental appropriations process. However, between the time that we first drafted our bill, and the time that we marked the bill up, excuse me, marked the conference up, which was yesterday, and sent to the floor for consideration which will be today--final consideration--the money which was to be reserved from the program has been spent, so we lost the opportunity.
In terms of budget scoring, if the money is spent you can't get it, you can't use it as an offset. But we as a body, in the House of Representatives, had all agreed by a majority vote to use it as an offset, and I think that's indicative of the fact that we really do have a substantial amount of support both around America, and within the Congress for the passage of restrictive legislation on bilingual education.
In the future, it would be a preference to see authorization language. Go to President of the United States to restrict this misbegotten policy. The State of California, in the very next few weeks I believe, will express their opinion, and it's my expectation that you could speak to this more clearly, and with more authority than I can. It's my expectation that the people of California will come out very strongly in favor of abolishing this policy.
But, I always feel that it's important for us not just to be against things, we ought to be for things. And I want to say that it's been my experience that the English as a Second Language program which has not been a Federal program, but rather implemented in some State communities, has been enormously successful, because it mainstreams kids from other cultures and with linguistic backgrounds into the American economy so that they can grow up and not be bus boys and waiters, but rather, be doctors, lawyers and productive citizens.
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Chairman, thank you for that. And I would just like to add to your comment that, of course, we sort of chafe at this restriction under current law, that 75 percent of funds appropriated for local school district programs be used for the support of transitional bilingual education programs which uses a child's native language as instruction as you pointed out, until such time that they're proficient in the English language as opposed to ESL, our immersion programs.
Particularly since there appears to be no conclusive evidence out there; we haven't heard any yet, that transitional bilingual education programs are more effective than ESL, and immersion programs in helping children attain English language skills or English proficiency. They certainly need not only to succeed to attain English language skills in school, as you pointed out, but later in life.
May I turn to Mr. Martinez just very quickly to see if he has one question he'd like to direct to you, and then we'll go to our next colleague?
Mr. Livingston. Yes, sir.
Mr. Martinez. Well, I don't want to get in a hectic dialogue here, Mr. Livingston, but from your background and your experience, and that of your children, you are very limited in what you understand of the average person that's brought up in a disadvantaged environment.
You want to talk about how this young lady succeeded very well in an immersion program, and who's now a young lady doing very well. But how about the people that didn't have the advantages that you had in your home-life or your children had in their home-life, that didn't have a common economy, nor a common equality of life, nor a common advantage to begin with; and those people who have to struggle everyday of their lives to just put bread on the table; and live in a very difficult circumstance where they're not able to devote or give that attention to their young children that they should give; and those children have to fend for themselves, in school and everywhere else.
You know, I went to school, and I did not speak English when I went to school. I don't speak Spanish now that well because I lost that language, and it would have been a great advantage to me to maintain that language. What's more, I don't think I do that bad in English, and I don't think I've done that bad in life. I didn't become a busboy. I didn't become a waiter. You know, once though at 14-years-old, I was a busboy. I waited tables in Clifton's Cafeteria, in downtown Los Angeles. But I went on, and joined the marine corps to become a marine and to become a sergeant in the marines. And I did great things in the marines: I boxed for them, I played football for them, I was all-west back; and I came out of there, and went into a productive life as a human being. I raised five children. All of my children went to college. None of my brothers and sisters went to college. In fact, I was only one of two that graduated high school of ten. But we did all right, and we didn't have bilingual education.
But I'll tell you something else, 50 percent of the kids that started with me in kindergarten never finished high school, because they dropped behind because they had English-barrier problems. They dropped behind until they were so frustrated they dropped out.
Now you talk about not knowing English and doing well, I know a gentleman, Pedro Escardo--we're going to give anecdotal evidence. I know a gentleman, Pedro Escardo, who came to this country as a young man, 23-years-old, went to work in a restaurant as a busboy, at The Luminados--and everybody knows The Luminados, anybody that knows specialty restaurants, they're one of the biggest chain restaurants on the West Coast. You know what he does now? He now owns his own restaurant, and with working for specialties, he went from a busboy to managing that Luminados Restaurant so successfully they gave him a bigger restaurant, and from that he went to owning his own restaurant.
You know, learning English you learn it all different ways, and all kinds of people learn it at different times. Little kids that are trying to learn to do as well as you want them to do, as you say you want them to do, have a very difficult time at different rates. Not every kid learns the same.
I was fortunate that I learned English very rapidly, but I have a brother that didn't learn English very rapidly, and didn't do as well as I did. But if he had had some kind of instruction--and if you remember this whole situation was brought about by Lau vs. Nichols, in which it was proven that that young man did not have sufficient English proficiency to do well in the academic studies; and he didn't get a good education, they sued, and they won.
The problem is, if we're trying to develop a plan that fits one-fits-al, as you guys often say, we're really off base. If we want to really help the kids we're going to teach them at the rate they learn, and we're going to make sure that they're proficient in English before they go in these so-called immersion programs.
And you know what, in Roosevelt High School some 15 years ago, a teacher, without the authorization of the school board there, developed a system in which he taught the students both English and Spanish at the same time. They learned their basic lessons in Spanish on one page, and on the other page it was in English. And they read the English, and he made sure they understood in English. Those kids, in a short three years of high school graduated with honors, every one of them.
So, we have stories like that all over. Sure, there are some programs where there are some teachers who have used Spanish as a crutch, and kept kids in longer than they should be. But that's our fault, because we haven't made them accountable. If we make these teachers accountable, to make sure that child's becoming English proficient, proficient enough to meet the standards that exist today in all schools across this Nation, then I think that that kid will be able to become as successful as anybody can become in our system.
Mr. Livingston. Well, Mr. Martinez, let me say that I admire you. You are the personification of the American dream. You've come from a poor background, and you've elevated yourself, raised yourself by your bootstraps, and overcome great difficulties and hardships. And you're a United States Congressman today, and I dare say you're probably the pride-and-joy of your community, and of your State, and of the Nation. You're evidence that people in this country can do it.
But I'd have to tell this, I believe very strongly that if you could only speak Spanish today, and not English, you wouldn't be sitting there. You'd be still either boxing or waiting on tables. Thank you very much.
Mr. Martinez. In spite of a system that didn't give me any help.
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for joining us. We appreciate it, and look forward to working with you.
Our next witness is also our colleague, Xavier Becerra. He's a Democrat from California and he is the current chairman of the House Hispanic Caucus, and a well-known, and articulate spokesman on education issues, particularly as they relate to Hispanic-Americans.
Thank you very much for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE XAVIER BECERRA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, AND CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS
Mr. Becerra. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me first thank you for the opportunity to testify here today before you on H.R. 3680 on behalf of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
I must say, though, I'm very disappointed that the chairman decided to deny the other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus the opportunity to come here as is usually extended as a courtesy to Members of Congress, the opportunity to come before the committee and make a presentation to colleagues.
Let me further state that as a Member of Congress, I'm usually very, very proud to be here, not only as a representative of the State of California, but here is someone who comes from some of those humble backgrounds that have been discussed, but am extremely embarrassed to say that it appears that today this committee has decided to silence those who wish to speak on behalf of bilingual education. I don't understand why there are nine witnesses that are going to be allowed to testify after I finish, and only one of those nine will be allowed to testify in support of bilingual education.
Stacking occurs. It has always occurred, but this is more than stacking, 8 to 1. In this august body where we talk so highly about democracy, and we tout the United States of America as being the model for democracy, to allow only one person to come before this committee to talk about bilingual education in a supportive way, I think, is denial of that democracy, and a silencing of the voices of democracy. And I would urge you to reconsider an opportunity for others to testify on behalf of this bill, in opposition if they so chose.
Quickly, before I get into the guts of my response, let me just comment to some of the things that Chairman Livingston said. Obviously, anecdotal evidence you can't counter, especially if it occurs at the home, and I'm very pleased that Mr. Livingston has a child that has succeeded. As I know that every family would hope that his or her child would have a chance to succeed.
But when Mr. Livingston, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, says that there's no conclusive evidence that bilingual education works, it's too bad he didn't decide to stick around, because you have a superintendent from a school district in Texas, Ysleta School District superintendent, Mr. Trujillo, who will be able to speak about some tremendous successes that have occurred for young people who did not know English, and now know it very well, and now have a chance to succeed, as did his daughter.
And I'd very much like to see Mr. Livingston's notes from which he spoke from because I'd love to see all those billions of dollars he mentioned. I've never once seen bilingual education receive nearly the type of funding it deserves, and nearly the type of funding it needs, and certainly, no where near the monies that the chairman of the Appropriations Committee stated. But, again, he's the chairman. He rules that committee. I'd like to see the transcript of this hearing today because I'd love to find those dollars that Mr. Livingston said were there, because I'd love to see them spent on bilingual education. Perhaps then, we'd see the successes that we need.
Mr. Chairman, it is my opinion that H.R. 3680 will not only weaken the single-most important Federal education program for eliminating English proficient students in our classrooms, the Bilingual Education Act, but it will do so at the very expense of helping young people succeed.
I say to Mr. Chairman, to the members of the committee, that to appreciate the importance of the Federal Bilingual Education Act, which is Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, you have to understand the educational plight of limited English proficient children prior to 1968. Let me share with you how it was in California, for example, my native State, Mr. Chairman, your native State, the State with the largest population of limited English proficient children.
In 1872, over 100 years ago, California lawmakers amended the State Education code to require that all instruction in the State's public schools be conducted solely in English, English-only classrooms with a course, par-for-the-course, and that lasted for 95 years, until 1967, when Governor Ronald Reagan--yes, Governor Ronald Reagan--signed Senate Bill 53, legislation repealing the English-only mandate, and authorizing bilingual education in California schools. Why was the English-only mandate repealed? Because it was a horrible failure. It kept students from learning their academic subjects in a timely fashion; it caused language-minority students to be retained in grade because they were behind in their academic studies; it caused students to become frustrated, to give up, and to drop out of school. And most ironic of all, English-only instruction did not lead to the mastery of the English language.
As we say these days, ``been-there-done-that.'' Now, how bad was it? Well, according to the 1960 Census, only 50 percent of California Mexican-American youth between the ages of 18-24 had even completed the 8th grade.
And let's put that in context. This is at a time when California ranked among the top five in the Nation in how it funded its schools; when California was decently giving dollars to schools to provide educational opportunities to children. Today, California ranks among the bottom five in the Nation, and that is what we're comparing it to.
The high school drop-out rate for Mexican-Americans was not only high but, indeed, the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, recognized it so much that he made remarks with regard to the signing of S.B. 53 when he said, ``It will be particularly valuable, this new bill, this new legislation allowing bilingual education in giving Spanish-speaking California children more and better opportunities for quality education.'' He went on to say ``Studies have shown that one reason for a high drop-out rate among Spanish-speaking children is their difficulty in understanding basic subjects which are taught in English.'' Finally, he said, ``The new law will assist those students by permitting subjects to be taught in Spanish until the student masters it in English.''
Back then, Governor Reagan understood what bilingual education was about.
During the last 30 years, the Federal Bilingual Education Act has helped States and school districts across the Nation develop and implement quality educational programs for limited-English-proficient students.
In many communities, like Calexico, California, in our State of California and Ysleta, Texas, Title VII grants, bilingual education grants, were the catalyst for transforming schools from factories of failure to fields of success.
Now, let me address if I may, H.R. 3680 and how it would weaken the Federal Bilingual Education Act and harm limited-English-proficient students.
First, the bill focuses on English language acquisition at the expense of comprehensive academic achievement. That's, I believe, the real source of divergence from true bilingual education and what is proposed here. Nowhere in H.R. 3680 can you find the crucial requirement found in current bilingual education law, which specifies that funded programs must ``enable limited-English-proficient students to achieve English proficiency and academic mastery of subject matter content and higher order skills, including critical thinking, so as to meet age-appropriate grade promotion and graduation standards in concert with the National Education Goals.
Mr. Chairman, limited-English-proficient students must learn English in a timely fashion. No one denies that. But they must also learn math, science, history, geography, civics, art, and music in a timely fashion, as well. If schools just impart English-only, they will have failed the limited-English-proficient students.
Second, the quality of federally-assisted programs is almost certain to diminish if Title VII is converted from a National competition to a formula block grant to the States. One of the reasons Title VII has been so successful over the years when money has been made available, is that it has challenged educational agencies to develop programs which employ the best educational practices. Without the competition, without the challenge, Federal assistance is likely to be far less effective.
Third, unlike current law, H.R. 3680 provides no assistance, whatsoever, to institutions of higher education to expand programs for producing more bilingual and ESL-qualified teachers. I should mention, Mr. Livingston should know this well, the Appropriations Committee and the majority of the Appropriations Committee has worked very hard to try to undermine the opportunities for the school district to have bilingual teachers available, by trying to eliminate all funding for teacher-training which, to me, makes no sense. It's like trying to choke the program to death, by not providing it with skilled teachers.
School districts across the Nation reported a critical shortage of teachers who are professionally prepared to instruct limited-English-proficient students, the fastest growing segment of their enrollments. No one, I guarantee you, no one who is a parent wants to see his or her child being taught by a teacher who has an emergency certificate. That is the case in too many of our schools that have bilingual education programs.
Fourth and finally, H.R. 3680 eliminates the National Clearinghouse on Bilingual Education, the only National sources of information on research and best educational practices for the instruction of limited-English-proficient students. Every month, the National Clearinghouse's web site receives more than 250,000 information inquiries from classroom teachers and school administrations. Instead of help, H.R. 3680 offers meaningless mandates. For example, Section 7301(a) of the bill states:
"In order to maximize State and Federal efforts to serve the educational needs of children and youth who are English language learners and immigrant children and youth, each State that receives a grant under this title shall coordinate its programs and activities under this title, to the maximum extent practicable, with programs and activities of other such States.''
I find it incredible that this legislation mandates coordination at the same time that it eliminates the Federal resources which make coordination possible. It reminds me of Marie Antoinette telling her starving subjects to ``just eat cake.''
Finally, I must question the committee's decision to move forward on this bill today, when the Bilingual Education Act, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is scheduled to be considered next Congress during the Reauthorization of the ESEA. We need to address the needs of our Nation's limited-English proficient students, but we should not do so in haste. Rather, we must consider bilingual education in the context of the reauthorization of the entire Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
And I would urge the chairman and the members of this committee to think very hard about H.R. 3680 and what we mean when we try to have English learners. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The statement of Mr. Becerra follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE XAVIER BECERRA, CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC – SEE APPENDIX A
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Becerra, thank you very much for being here. We appreciate your testimony.
Let me ask you how many of our colleagues, Members of Congress, belong to the House Hispanic Caucus?
Mr. Becerra. How many are there?
Chairman Riggs. Yes.
Mr. Becerra. There are 17 members who are officially a member of the caucus.
Chairman Riggs. And do you speak for them today?
Mr. Becerra. Yes, I do.
Chairman Riggs. All right. So, what you just presented represents a consensus position taken by the House Hispanic Caucus?
Mr. Becerra. I was given the authority to come before this Committee as a member of the caucus, and on behalf of the caucus.
Chairman Riggs. I do appreciate your input and your testimony is all the more valuable. I also want to note for the record, of course, that we're joined by our friend and colleague, Mr. Hinojosa, from Texas. We're happy to have him here today. So there is a real effort made to have balanced testimony, and hopefully a balanced hearing.
I also should note for the record that this is the second hearing that we've had on bilingual education reform. The first occurring in southern California in San Diego, and I believe the minority witness at that hearing, Gene Garcia, he tended to dominate the hearing because he was very, very knowledgeable, number one. But number two, his views, I think, were afforded probably more time in the overall course of that hearing.
Mr. Becerra. If that means that we will get eight times more time for one witness that would be fine.
Chairman Riggs. I didn't--I know they gave him 40 minutes compared to the 5 minutes--I know they had promised that but, I appreciated that.
I also want to say with respect to recent funding history for these programs, the two programs that effectively would be combined and are consolidated into a single block grant. Federal bilingual education programs were funded in the 1997 Federal Fiscal Year at $156 million. Immigrant education in Fiscal Year 1997 at $100 million, and that does not include of course, the many millions of Federal taxpayer dollars that are also being spent to serve limited-English-proficient children through the title I Federal program.
Mr. Becerra. Mr. Chairman, you're not implying that the immigrant education money is bilingual education money are you?
Chairman Riggs. I am implying that it is in many respects--yes, used to serve limited-English-proficient children.
Mr. Becerra. Which goes to serve them in so many other ways because if you happen to have a chance to go through some of the school districts in say, the Central Valley of California, you will find the conditions abominable where you and I would never have our children attend. And that money is to help those school districts try to raise the standards of learning opportunities. It doesn't do much to help them become proficient in English because they're so busy trying to just make sure they have toilets that work.
Chairman Riggs. We may disagree on that, but perhaps what we could do is agree to perhaps make a joint site-visit to one of those schools. I'd be happy to do that, by the way.
Mr. Becerra. I would love to do that.
Chairman Riggs. If you would select that and we could coordinate a time, obviously, when we're both home in California.
Well let me just go very quickly and I have to apologize to my colleagues because we're almost desperate to get to our other witnesses who have real time constraints because we started so late. So I'm going to turn again to Congressman Martinez, and ask him to represent if you will, our other colleagues here in terms of any questions or comments for Congressman Becerra.
But I want to ask you just in terms of the fundamental principles involved in this legislation--I also want to state first, though, that you raised questions regarding timing.
I want to point out that there are those of our colleagues--there are certainly those of my Party in the House who would like to eliminate, for all intents and purposes, Federal taxpayer funding for bilingual education programs. This approach is more of a--and I hesitate before saying this for fear that it will appear somewhere in publication soon, but this is more of a mend-it-not-end-it approach.
It's more of a reform approach because I recognize that there are many, many people who are calling out for reform of these programs. So therefore, we've taken a very simple approach providing parents the right to choose whether or not their children participate in education programs conducted in their native language.
Do you believe parents should have that right?
Mr. Becerra. Absolutely, Mr. Chairman. And I think you'll find that almost every law and place that deals with bilingual education affords parents that discretion to decide what to do with their children. It's a matter of how it's being exercised or how they're being informed of that right to decide what to do with their children.
I must mention as well, that in this whole issue of people trying to eliminate bilingual education, it would be nice if some of those who were trying to eliminate it would, at least, say that the money that would otherwise go to bilingual education, would still go to try to help these young children learn English, but I don't, unfortunately, hear that.
When we were using bilingual education as an offset to pay for other programs, I heard not a word about how we were going to try to help those kids that would no longer have those Federal dollars available to try to help them become English learners. And that was very distressing.
Chairman Riggs. But, just to follow-up my question, I want to make sure I am very, very clear on this: That you are representing and speaking for the House Hispanic Caucus. Do you believe then, that as a requirement of Federal law, a local education agency should first have to seek and then secure the written the consent of the parent before the child can be placed in that bilingual education class?
Mr. Becerra. I think every local jurisdiction, because the principal local control is so important, should have an opportunity to decide how it is going to approach it's children, and of course, the parents of these children. Most of these jurisdictions, the school boards, have laws in place, have rules in place, that determine how they approach parents. I know of no jurisdiction that has forced upon its children, and the parents of these children, some type of teaching.
You and I would, of course, be the first ones to go up there and say you can't do that. That, I understand, as far as I know, is not the case anywhere I know.
What I do understand to be a problem is information getting to some of these parents, which I think will tell you something about the school district; that those schools that parents aren't even being fully informed about what their rights are, and what the programs are that are at these schools.
So before we start planning bilingual education for the degraded nature and conditions of schools throughout the Nation, especially in California, we should look at public education overall, and maybe we can get the governor of the State of California to finally give the State the money it needs for its schools and its children.
Chairman Riggs. May I ask you one other question? Our bill also would allow States and local education agencies to choose the types of English-language instruction provided to limited-English-proficient children, as opposed to the current stipulations in Federal law, and the limitation on funding, under the Federal Bilingual Education Act. Do you agree with that approach, allowing States and local education agencies to make the decision with respect to the bilingual instruction method that they deem most appropriate for their students?
Mr. Becerra. I think the Federal Bilingual Education Act does a very good job of giving the States the latitude they need to do the best job they can in trying to help children transition into English through the bilingual education programs.
Back in 1993 and 1994, I had the chance to work and draft good portions of the Federal Bilingual Education Act. I think, if I may say, it works very well. And I would say that the States have plenty of opportunity and discretion to try to manage the programs. I would say this: I know of many school districts in some States that were doing a tremendously poor job of reaching out to children who are limited-English-proficient, and I would have great concern allowing them anymore discretion at this time, than they already give themselves, because they've already proven that they are unwilling or unable to do the job in training children to learn English, and learn it without falling behind in math, science, and the other subjects.
Chairman Riggs. Well, it's my hope and expectation that some of our other witnesses will be able to speak to some of the concerns that you've raised. And we'll be eager to share that testimony with you.
My last question is: Can you explain to me, then, why a recent Los Angeles Times statewide poll showed 84 percent Latino support on an all-English curriculum? And this, of course, is in reference to the English for the Children Ballot Initiative, which is on the June primary ballot in California.
Mr. Becerra. Mr. Chairman, if you and I saw a ballot measure that said, ``English for the Children,'' would you vote for it? Mr. Chairman, if someone said to you, we have a better way of helping young children transition so they can be fluent in English and proficient, and productive members of society once they graduate, because they will graduate, if you heard that, Mr. Chairman, and you were one of those yearning, like my parents were to make sure their children learned English as quickly as possible, so that they could become successful, and have the opportunities that my parents never had, they would want to vote for it.
It's unfortunate that we have initiatives that deceive, and it's unfortunate that we may even see people vote based on this deception, and pass it. If I may give one quick example of how desperate parents are to teach their children English, to have them become a part of American mainstream:
When I was small, and I am perhaps not the most Latino-looking Latino--
But when I was small, and I lived in Sacramento, California, born and raised in Sacramento, California, Sacramento can get very warm during the summers; during the summertime my mother would always yell out to me, Xavier Mettete, come inside. Si no de mettete de paso punat de negrido--your going to become too dark if you stay outside in the sun. Now, there was nothing that was going to happen to me if I stayed out in the sun and got a tan. In fact, a lot of folks in this country go out in the sun. In fact, they get artificial light to become a little darker. But what my mother was trying to say is, the darker you get, the less opportunity you'll have.
And there are parents today that are saying the same thing to their children--don't you speak so much Spanish in the home; you have to succeed, you need to learn English, You need to be able to mainstream. It's not the problem of the parents. It's not the problem of the students.
Let us work together, Mr. Chairman, and find out what's really going on in schools that's not allowing a lot of these children who yearn more than you and I do, to learn English. Let's find out what we can do to help them so that they learn English quickly. But, let's help them learn the math, and the science, and the geography that will make them successful, so we won't have to worry about these things in the future.
Chairman Riggs. Well, I would just submit to you that to do that, they have to learn English first. And I would further submit that we probably will look at that poll and data two different ways. I think the poll and data indicates that parents are desperate to get their children an education.
Mr. Becerra. Absolutely.
Chairman Riggs. And I think that speaks to the failure of too many of our public schools.
Mr. Becerra. And, Mr. Chairman, I think that applies--take a look at the schools that these parents are sending their kids to, then you'll know why they're voting for things like this. They're desperate. It's not because of bilingual education, they're desperate because of the public school system.
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Martinez or his designator.
Mr. Martinez. Well, thank you. I want to do a couple of things first. One, is I want Frank to answer that question. I don't think he ever can when a person's mind is made-up. You know, my dad used to tell me, don't argue with the wall because the wall doesn't have a mind, and you can't change it. And don't argue with a wall because you're not going to move it because it's feet are in concrete. That's what we have here. People are going to believe what they want to believe because they want to believe it.
The fact is that, yes, there are a lot of people--in fact, I remember one time years ago, when this debate was going on, in the Los Angeles Times, there were letters to the editor. And of those letters to the editor, there were some 15, 10 of them were against bilingual education and 10 of them were Hispanic signatures at the end. Five were professional educators who all were supportive. The thing I'm telling here is, the average citizen, especially Hispanic parents from low-economic backgrounds don't understand what bilingual does for their children, and so they don't know whether they should support it or not.
But they do know one thing, what you said, is they want their kids to be accepted as Americans. Because how many times as a kid were you told, go back where you came from. And you wondered, well, where was that? Colorado, you know, that's where I came from, you know. That's where I was born. But the people say they weren't talking about Colorado, they were talking about Mexico, because they don't understand the difference between a person born in this country, just because they're Latin-looking--and incidently, you look Latin to me.
Mr. Becerra. Thank you.
Mr. Martinez. And yet, on the other hand, they can be terribly mistaken, because I've seen a lot of Latin-looking people that were not Latin at all. So, it's confusing. But the people themselves are really not in a position to judge what's best for the parents in all cases, especially if you're from low socio-economic backgrounds, because they've merely not had that good an education themselves.
You know, my parents never had a great education. I had a better education than they did. My children had a better education than I did. And that's what happens in exceeding generations. And almost any immigrant that you know that came from another country, that spoke another language wanted their kids to learn English. Why? Because they felt they would succeed. So, if somebody told them at the time, your child can become more successful, quicker, if they have bilingual education where they teach them in their language, the subject-matter they need to, and teach them English at the same time. Then, they would have become a lot quicker doctors, lawyers and engineers.
And then we also had the other handicap. Do you remember Dr. Navarro--not Navarro, the Ambassador to Mexico. Navah, Julien Navah. His high school teacher told him when he got to high school, take a mechanics course, because that's all you'll ever be.
I can remember them telling--and not that long ago--telling my daughter--this counselor that the school hires to advise kids what kind of curriculum to take—because her name is Martinez, he thinks she comes from south San Gabriel--he tells her, you need a homemaking course. She said, no, I want an academic course. I want to go to college. Well, your parents probably wouldn't be able to send you to college. Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.
The same things that are happening here, assumptions, assumptions. And she says, wait a minute, do you know my parents. He said, well no, but you come from south San Gabriel. I don't come from south San Gabriel, I live in Marley Park. Well, you live on New Avenue. Well, she said, for your information, Mr. Counselor, New Avenue is only in Rosemeade and Monterrey Park. There's no south San Gabriel in Rosemeade, and there's no New Avenue in south San Gabriel. And he says, well, I didn't know that. Well, he didn't know a lot of things. Then she asked him, do you know who Marty Martinez is? Then he says, yes, he's the mayor of the community. She said, well, that's my dad.
Oh, well, now it's a different story. Assumptions, assumptions. Just like Julien Navah.
When I was a kid there weren't many kids encouraged to go to engineering school, or take math and science to go on to higher education. ``Uh-uh,'' they were all told, become carpenters, plumbers; that's your highest expectation. And with that disadvantage, and without the advantage of being able to speak good English to defend themselves because they never had bilingual instruction, and they never learned the subject-matter at the same time so that they could be up to speed by the time they got to high school, they were at a disadvantage, and we have not taken that disadvantage away today.
The fact is that we can talk all we want to about it, but it really stems from one reason, and one reason alone: People want to hear other people speak in English. The English-only nuts are people who are offended by people speaking another language. It's as simple as that. They hear, they don't understand, they're offended. You know we all are offended by hearing another language that we don't understand, especially in a mixed crowd. I try to, as often as I can, make these people understand, hey, when you're in a mixed crowd, if you want to speak your language, interpret for the people that don't understand you. And that seems to calm their fears that they're talking about them.
But the fact is that that's as simple as it is. We want to think that the only intelligent people in this world, speak English. I don't think Einstein was that intelligent because he spoke English. He learned English much after he was an adult.
I want to break the tension a little bit though, by announcing to everyone here that our colleague, Bobby Scott, it's his birthday today. And I think we all should wish him a happy birthday.
Mr. Becerra. Balisco y ano.
Mr. Martinez. Happy Birthday.
I just want to do one thing before I relinquish my time, and allow Mr. Kucinich, who is white man--[Laughter.]--to speak for the white people that the other people think they're speaking for.
Mr. Kucinich. All right, as for that, yo creo que los latinos su divados moy putante, el cutora de las Ustados Unidos.
Mr. Becerra. Gracias, senor.
Mr. Kucinich. Es muy putante el habla Engles y Espanol.
Mr. Chairman, as a member of this committee, I'd just like to have one minute here to make a point. I represent 35,000 Hispanic-Americans in my district. The families in that district want the children to learn English. But, if you destroy the bilingual programs, it's going to make it tougher for the children to learn in every way. Because Spanish language is the basis by which people are in this society and from there they go and they learn English. And everyone here understands that who has any practical experience.
It is ironic that we're in a room with the American eagle holding in his beak, the word E Pluribus Unim. Now, that's latin, excuse me, not English. Maybe we should have that re-carved, for what it means is, out of many, one. We recognize that we are a pluralistic society. We have many different peoples from many different countries. And yet, why destroy that by attacking a language--Spanish, which is what this is really about, which is the basis for communications with 20 million Americans. But it's also part of our cultural richness that we have to recognize. I wonder if we made the measure, not just English only, but proper English only. If we did that we couldn't pass any laws in this country.
I wonder if we made it a measure, English-only, in the dictionary--if we did that, we'd have to tear out most pages in the dictionary because the good part of our language is derived from other languages.
I mean we have to get real about what this moment represents. There is a cultural imperialism going on and we have to respect that our country's strength comes from diversity, and if we ever forget that, if we ever get deceived in these side debates about English-language-only, we are going to lose our heritage, and he who troubleth his own house, whether it's the House of Representatives or mi casa, su casa, as the Bible says, inherits the wind. So let our inheritance not be the wind, Mr. Chairman. Let our inheritance be an educated America where our children can speak many different languages fluently.
That's all I have to say. Finito. Oh, by the way, this just in: The Arizona Supreme Court just ruled an English-only statute unconstitutional.
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, I think, Mr. Kucinich. This just is ``no problemo.''
This just in, too: Two articles from today's Washington Post, that well-known, conservative publication here in Washington, D.C. First, a column by Richard Cohen, a pretty level-headed, middle-of-the-road type of guy, ``Immerse Them in English.'' I recommend you to this article.
And secondly, lead editorial, ``Voting on Bilingual Education.'' I just want to quote very quickly from it. ``The stated purpose of the traditional approach to bilingual education has always been mainstreaming.'' ``Getting students to the level of proficiency for all-day English as quickly as possible, then transferring them. But in practice, too many students are not tested and are left to stagnate in native language classes for as long as five years. This cheats the students of the intensive immersion that they need for true fluency and it frustrates parents who want their kids fully integrated into American culture as soon as possible.''
Then they go on to say, as I said earlier, much of the estimated 70 percent support for Proposition 227 in California is Latino, and we did not, of course, I'll give the chance to respond, but of course, we did not coordinate with the Washington Post and ask them to publish this editorial today.
Mr. Becerra. Mr. Chairman, if I--
Chairman Riggs. Very briefly if you would, Mr. Becerra. And then, I'm going to give Mr. Martinez the last word because we have a vote. I know Linda Chavez has to leave and she's been waiting patiently. We'd love to have her testimony if she can. But go ahead, you, and then Mr. Martinez.
Mr. Becerra. I don't think anyone would disagree with what the Post just said. If you recall what you just read, those schools allow these kids to stagnate. When you stagnate any child, I don't care if it's in a bilingual-ed program or a regular program or in a private school, they're not going to succeed. And what we're saying is let's have proficient programs that will allow children to move on, whether it's in bilingual-ed or regular programming in a public school or in a private school. You're going to fail a child if you allow him to stagnate for five years anywhere.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. I thank the members of the committee for allowing me to be here and testify.
Mr. Martinez. Yes, Mr. Chairman, allow me, if you will, with your consent to enter into the record more than 50 letters of communications I received from people all over the country who are in support of bilingual education, so that this hearing reflects also the other side of the coin. With that, I'd like to turn to Mr. Hinojosa.
[The information follows:]
LETTERS OF SUPPORT FOR BILINGUAL EDUCATION, SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD – SEE APPENDIX B
Mr. Hinojosa. Thank you. I want to thank the chairman and the ranking member for allowing me the opportunity to sit in this place here with the committee members. I would like to say that I entered a copy of my testimony, Mr. Chairman, and I would like to request that it become a part of the record, along with--
Chairman Riggs. I should have said, if the gentlemen will yield for just a moment, without objection, and it is so ordered and the other letters that Mr. Martinez just mentioned will also be submitted for the record.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE RUBÉN HINOJOSA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Hinojosa. As part of my testimony, I included in the back, an attachment that is entitled ``Bilingual Education, The Case for Science Over Politics'' based on a report by Dr. J.P. Green, Professor of Government, from the University of Texas in Austin. And this report is dated March 1998. It is important that all of the comments that Congressman Becerra and others have made be read and understood.
But I want to at least say one-minute's worth. And that is that I was pleased to hear Congressman Livingston talk about his 7-year-old daughter coming to the United States, and it re-enforced something that I learned at the Texas State Board of Education when I was chairman of the Bilingual Education Programs Under Special Populations, and it was that the art of learning can best be learned in one's native language. And I am sure that from zero to seven, that child learned the art of learning in her native language. And so when she came, and she got into an excellent program in some school where they had excellent-trained teachers, she immediately made that transition.
So again, having been a product of a family of immigrants, 11 children, being the eighth of that family, and having learned English when I was 8-years-old, I can tell you that I can appreciate the misunderstanding of Congressman Livingston and many others who are trying to get rid of bilingual education.
So again, we will continue this hearing.
[The statement of Mr. Hinojosa follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE RUBÉN HINOJOSA, MEMBER OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH & FAMILIES, COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WASHINGTON, DC– SEE APPENDIX C
Chairman Riggs. That we certainly will. We do have a vote. We're down to 10 minutes and I mentioned Mr. Cohen's article, so I want to make sure that I comply by our own rules and request permission to submit his commentary as well as the editorial, for the record. And hearing no objection, it is so ordered.
[The information follows:]
ARTICLE BY MR. RICHARD COHEN, WASHINGTON POST, APRIL 30, 1998 – SEE APPENDIX D
Chairman Riggs. And I do want to conclude this portion of the hearing by quoting from Mr. Cohen. He says, ``As it is now, non-English-speaking students''--this is especially for the young people who applauded a few minutes ago who remain with us--``As it is now, non-English-speaking students are taught in their native language, and get English instruction for about a half-an-hour a day.''
Now I know that's a generality because it would vary from school district to school district, and from school to school.
But then he goes on to say, ``Since most of these kids return to a home where English is not spoken, many of them never learn to read or write in the language of Shakespeare, not to mention of General Motors, and the rest of the country's businesses. This is tragic for the kids, and not, as someone argued, an expression of anti-immigrant sentiment. No one's advocating any silly English-only law of the sort recently struck down in Arizona by which, for instance, it would be illegal for State officials to use a language other than English in the course of their official business. These laws can be an expression of both racist and xenophobic sentiment, sending a message to non-English speakers that they are not wanted.
But immersing kids in English is a different matter. It works, as generations of immigrants can testify. English fluency and literacy are absolutely essential for assimilation and success which is why a great majority of California Hispanics' population supports Proposition 227.'' And I've sort of turned this into a mini-referendum on Proposition 227 today.
Mr. Martinez. Mr. Chairman, that is an editorial?
Chairman Riggs. Yes, it is.
Mr. Martinez. Well, an editorial is an opinion. His opinion is wrong.
Chairman Riggs. Well, that is duly noted for the record.
To the four witnesses, I'm going to come down and confer with you very briefly.
And we stand very briefly in recess. While we are gone, I'm going to ask the staff to bring forward our second panel of witnesses. We will vote and return directly to the subcommittee so that we can reconvene the hearing shortly.
Chairman Riggs. I'm going to reconvene our hearing, and try to get as much accomplished between votes as we can. We're anticipating another vote on the floor in about half-an-hour to 45 minutes. I must, again, apologize to our witnesses. As far as I'm concerned you are our guests and should not be treated rudely. But this is a particularly hectic day, in part, because it's the final day of the legislative week, and Members are anxious to complete legislative business on the House floor, and then depart for all points around the country.
What I'd like to do, since you're all now seated is go right to you in the hopes that more members will be returning shortly. I want to start with Ms. Linda Chavez, who is president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a non-profit research and educational organization, located here in Washington, D.C. She has an extensive background in civil rights and bilingual education. We're delighted that she could be with us.
And let me just announce, also, that I know many of you face some time constraints. If that is the case, if you will just indicate to me during the course of our hearing, or during your prepared statement, and we'll work around that, whatever it might be. So, if you have to depart, I'd like to know because then I might be able to make allowance to--if you will, sort of take a break between witnesses so we can have at least, some give-and-take and allow members this afternoon to pose questions to you before you have to depart. So, I hope that's clear.
Linda, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF LINDA CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, WASHINGTON, DC
Ms. Chavez. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I'd like to have my statement as submitted, put into the record. And I would also like to submit for the record a poll of Hispanic parents that the Center for Equal Opportunity completed two years ago.
Chairman Riggs. Absolutely. For you and the other witnesses, your written statements will be published in their entirety in the record, along with any extraneous-related material that you want to submit with your statement.
Ms. Chavez. Mr. Chairman, without--I hope I don't get myself into real trouble here, and get myself cited for contempt of Congress, but I feel this is necessary to say on the record.
I have been, frankly, shocked at the level of ignorance and mis-information about what is going on with respect to this program that I've heard today. And I have already spoken to a couple of members, both those who testified, and those who are members of the committee to ask to sit down with them, because I think there really is a frightening lack of knowledge on the part of the people who write our laws, and establish public policy in this arena about how bilingual education operates, how it is that children are put into these classes, how many years they must spend there, and how difficult it is for them to get out.
And I don't really want to talk about the pedology of bilingual education today. I've written on this subject for scholarly magazines and for popular publication for the last 20 years. What I want to talk about today is an issue of discrimination, and why it is that I believe that the bilingual education program is the single-most detrimental program for Hispanic children in the United States today; and, how that program operates effectively, to segregate Hispanic youngsters from their non-Hispanic peers.
I think one of the things that members of this committee seem to be totally unfamiliar with, is the method in which children are placed into bilingual education programs, which often has nothing, whatsoever, to do with their fluency in English and/or Spanish; and often has to do simply with their ethnicity, with their national origin, and with their ancestry. It is to me, a disgrace that children who come into school in the United States speaking Korean or Japanese or Chinese or Mong or Russian or any of literally dozens of language, are put into put into classes where they are given instruction in English; where they are given English-as-a-second-language classes, or English immersion classes, so that they will quickly transition into the socio-economic educational, and political mainstream.
But if you were an Hispanic child in the United States, and you come into your school, you don't even have to be Spanish-speaking, you can simply have someone in your household for whom Spanish is the primary language. And if you score below the 40th percentile in most States, on a standardized test, you will be put into a classroom in which you are taught, sometimes for 80-90 percent of your school time in Spanish. Now there is no way if you are taught in Spanish four to five hours a day, not for a few months, not even, in some instances, for a few years, but often, for five to seven, and in some cases, longer, that you will ever learn to speak English well.
Now there is a body of evidence from the National Research Council, most recently, which says that there is simply no empirical evidence to show that teaching a child to read and write in his or her native language, is superior to teaching that child to read or write in English. And there is clearly a body of information that we are now gathering with respect to how human beings acquire language. Where we know that there is, in fact, a window of opportunity to introduce a second language, and that window in the brain begins to close at about the age of six or seven.
So why is it that we put Chinese speakers into classes and help them learn English? Why is it we put Mong speakers and Russian speakers and Korean speakers and every other language group, except Hispanic youngsters, into classes that help them learn English?
My organization is currently representing parents, Hispanic parents, around the country, in States like California, New Mexico, Texas, and elsewhere who want desperately for their children to learn English. We have provided over the last few years, booklets of information written in both Spanish and English, so to let them know what they're legal rights are.
Mr. Becerra's absolutely right, parents have a legal right to get their children out of these classes and put into an English language classroom. But too often, school districts deny those rights. And the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education aids and abets that process. And in fact, sues school districts that try alternative methods. So I think it's important.
Mr. Martinez talks in one of his questions about assumptions, assumptions. I want to know what is the assumption in the Congress of the United States and in the Department of Education which says that Hispanic kids can't learn English when every other group of kids can? I find that a racist assumption; one that segregates children, and does a tremendous disservice to them. Thank you very much.
[The statement of Ms. Chavez follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. LINDA CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY, WASHINGTON, DC – SEE APPENDIX E
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Linda, for your very forceful and courageous comments. Do you have a time constraint that would force to leave shortly?
Ms. Chavez. No, I can stay.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Then I will continue down our panel.
Mr. David Standridge is with the Standridge Law Firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His law firm is currently representing, I'm told, 14 students who are enrolled or have recently been discharged from the bilingual education programs in the Albuquerque public schools.
STATEMENT OF DAVID STANDRIDGE, STANDRIDGE LAW FIRM, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Mr. Standridge. That's correct.
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Standridge, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
Mr. Standridge. Well, I thank you for the opportunity to be here today and I particularly want to thank U.S. English and the Center for Equal Opportunity for providing the assistance they've given to us to allow us to be here today, and also in our lawsuit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The theory that I've been hearing today is certainly quite different from the reality that my clients are experiencing in the Albuquerque public schools regarding the bilingual education program. Our lawsuit right now is against the public school system in Albuquerque with regards to a bilingual education program and what the students are going through, both LEP students and non-LEP students. And our lawsuit really focuses on three major areas: First of all, with regards to the bilingual program, first of all is the identification of those students who are in need of bilingual education or some sort of immersion into the English language; secondly, the training that they're receiving in those courses; and, finally, the continued assessment that they're getting, and the evaluation that they're receiving from the school district.
With regards to the identification process, we have as some of our plaintiffs in our lawsuit, non-LEP students who are put into the bilingual program simply because they are of Hispanic origin or because they live in a demographic area within Albuquerque that is heavily Hispanic, particularly, in the South Valley or in the Bodeas, there in Albuquerque. And simply because they are in those areas, they're being identified as being in need of bilingual education, which is certainly preventing them from obtaining the educational opportunities as those students who are involved in the mainstream courses are receiving.
We also have a problem with the way that the Albuquerque public school system is going about identifying these students, because the whole basis of the identification process rests upon the fact that they are given a questionnaire at the beginning of the school year, and through that questionnaire, the Albuquerque public schools are given free reign to, I guess, create their idea of who needs to be involved in a bilingual program.
The second portion of our lawsuit that we're focusing upon, and that the parents have expressed concern over, is the actual training that their students are receiving in the courses. We have plaintiffs who are involved who are going through their entire educational careers without ever learning English.
We have a situation where students are being taught the cultural heritage of their State, of their national origin, which is not a problem, but when it comes at taking the place of what they're supposed to be equipping the children with, then there is a problem. And the parents are concerned that they're not being equipped with the tools that are necessary to assist them in the outside world, outside the academic arena.
We also had an incident, particularly, in Albuquerque where one of our high schools had both a bilingual education program and the English-as-a-Second-Language, and the English-as-a-Second-Language was cut by the school due to their concern over funding. And the students who were involved, took it upon themselves to protest that cut, and to date, the school still failed to implement any kind of English-as-a-Second-Language and continue to force students into the bilingual program.
We have a serious concern over parental notification in this case. The parents who I represent indicate that they were given no idea of how to opt out of the program. Particularly, they don't understand that it's even an option to get their children out of bilingual programs. Many of the student's parents that I represent, are not affluent, Anglo-parents. They are poor, Hispanic parents who want their children to learn English. And they do not want their children to be forced into the bilingual program. And the Albuquerque public school system is not allowing them the opportunity to opt out, and certainly not providing them the means to understand how they can even get out of the bilingual program.
The third portion of our lawsuit involves the assessment that the Albuquerque public schools are not following-up with, with regards to the productivity of the bilingual program. The students are not looked upon as what happens to them once they're outside the bilingual program, after graduation. We also have concerns that there is no tracking method while they're in there to give some sort of timeframe as to how long it will take them to learn English.
Our case and our concern in Albuquerque, New Mexico is not with preventing people from speaking their language. It's not about preventing them from learning about their cultural heritage. What it is about is to empower these students with the tools that would be necessary to survive in today's society, particularly so that they can learn English and be productive members of our community. And the parents have represented to me that they want their students to learn, they want their children to learn English. It's an important part of their lives. They're living in this country. Many of them are immigrants, and they want their children to learn English.
And so, we're not looking to eliminate what their cultural heritage is about; we simply want to empower them with the tools that will help them to be productive in today's society.
And I am under a time-constraint to leave today.
[The statement of Mr. Standridge follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF DAVID STANDRIDGE, STANDRIDGE LAW FIRM, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO – SEE APPENDIX F
Chairman Riggs. Well, thank you, counsel. I very much appreciate your testimony. Let me ask you: How are you compensated for your services?
Mr. Standridge. I'm doing the pro bono that was referred to me through the Center for Equal Opportunity, and it's pro bono and we're in the litigation stage right now.
Chairman Riggs. Wonderful. I'm curious, does Albuquerque public schools--do they do any kind of intake or evaluation of the child's English proficiency skills at that time that the child enters the public school system or at the time the child matriculates from grade to grade?
Mr. Standridge. Well, right now the only method that we have that we know of, at least, is the questionnaire that the parents fill-out at the beginning of the year. It's left totally to the discretion of the public schools to evaluate, and determine whether or not the child is a candidate for bilingual education. Aside from that, there is no other evidence that we have at this point that there is any kind of other methodology.
Chairman Riggs. And did you bring with you, as part of--I apologize that I don't know, but did you bring with you the notification forms that are currently being used by Albuquerque public schools?
Mr. Standridge. No, we are in the discovery phase right now--
Chairman Riggs. I see.
Mr. Standridge. And we requested those from the district and it hasn't been provided to us yet.
Chairman Riggs. All right. We'd be very interested, obviously, in seeing those forms at such time that you could procure them, or else we'll make an independent inquiry about the Albuquerque public schools.
Mr. Standridge. Yes, sir.
Chairman Riggs. Again, I don't know your time constraint, but obviously, one of your client's is here today, seated next to you, and I hope that you can stay for her testimony.
Ms. Amada Aranda.
STATEMENT OF AMADA ARANDA, PARENT, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
Ms. Aranda. Amada Aranda.
Chairman Riggs. Aranda. Is the parent of one of the students being represented by Mr. Standridge and his law firm, and she's here today to share with us her experiences, and the experience of her other four children. You have five children in all?
Ms. Aranda. I have five children.
Chairman Riggs. Boy, you have a full-time job and then some.
But we're very glad that you could be with us. Please proceed with your comments.
Ms. Aranda. Okay. Well, you'll have to excuse me because I don't speak fluent English. I was born in New Mexico and I have to read this in order to, you know, make you understand what I want to say.
Chairman Riggs. That's fine, your English is fine. How did you learn English?
Ms. Aranda. I learned it the hard way, at work. Because when I first came here to the United States, we were, you know, illegal. Because no way we could go to school here. So, at work, you know. I started to work in this hotel as a housekeeper. And it was a big hotel and the floor that I was working on, there were no Hispanic people, so I had to learn.
Chairman Riggs. Very good. Well, thank you. Please--
Mr. Martinez. Let me ask her a question?
Chairman Riggs. Sure.
Mr. Martinez. How old are you?
Ms. Aranda. Thirty-four.
Mr. Martinez. Did you go to college?
Ms. Aranda. No. Well, I went to business college like five years ago, for six months.
Mr. Martinez. What did you do there? What did you accomplish? Did you get a certificate or something?
Ms. Aranda. Yes, as an office specialist.
Mr. Martinez. Is that what you're doing now?
Ms. Aranda. Yes.
Mr. Martinez. You didn't go to school in this country at all? You just learned English as best you could, wherever you could? Would you say that if you were going to go to college to, let's say, become a doctor, or a lawyer, that with the limited English you know, that you would be able to do that?
Ms. Aranda. With the English that I know?
Mr. Martinez. Yes.
Ms. Aranda. No.
Mr. Martinez. That's what I'm talking about. That's why if you had gone to school and learned those subjects, science and math, it would have gotten you to the point that you were proficient in English in all subject matters, and all subject matters as well, you might have been able to do that. That's the deficiency that is in our system.
Mr. Standridge, the problems that you alluded to in that school district are covered by the law. Let me read you from the law. ``Students shall not be admitted to or excluded from, [admitted to, or excluded from] any Federal-assisted education program merely on the basis of surname or language minority status.'' That's the law. That is the law. So, in law, right now, if that school that you have these students from is violating it, the school is wrong, and if nothing is done about, it's our fault because we haven't done the oversight to make sure they follow the law.
And as an attorney, I'm surprised that you just don't take this and present this to the school authority there to make them know they're violating the law. Further the whole proposition here is to develop proficiency in English. That says so in the law, to the extent possible, and also in their native language. Meet the State contents standards and challenges challenging States, student performance standards expected for all children and youth as required by section. Now, the bill before us now, takes that section out of the law. ``That would set a standard for a kid by which he will be determined to be proficient in English.'' That is the problem. If you take these things out, then it makes it impossible for those of us who really want to monitor bilingual education, because we are as offended as anybody else by people being forced into a bilingual education program that don't need to be there. All right.
Because that's a waste of taxpayers dollars. But the problem is we did in initial legislation give too much latitude to school districts and local school departments for the sake of flexibility, to not even give them a guidance as to where they should go with what kind of programs they should go there with.
Chairman Riggs. Let's give Mr. Standridge an opportunity here--Ms. Chavez and Mr. Standridge--an opportunity to respond very quickly and then we're going to go right to Mrs. Aranda. I just wanted to get some background. I didn't want to turn it into a colloquy, because out of fairness to our other witnesses, we want to get to their testimony. But I've got to give, for the sake of fairness, Mr. Standridge and Ms. Chavez, a chance to respond.
Mr. Standridge. Well, sir, I certainly don't disagree with you that's the law. And we have presented that to the school district. Unfortunately, they don't agree with our position. We'd be more than willing to have you as an expert witness to testify about it, and it would certainly assist us in our case, if you would like to.
Mr. Martinez. But that doesn't mean we need to change the law. What we need to do is get the Department of Education to enforce it. To go down to that school district and tell them, you can't do that.
Chairman Riggs. Well, let me ask, Mr. Standridge: Mr. Standridge, are you considering trying to involve or trying to call in the Department of Education, and specifically, the Office of Civil Rights, or--
Mr. Standridge. Actually, the Office of Civil Rights found in 1995, the school district was in violation of title VI, and that's part of what our lawsuit is. We also have a claim in there for breach of contract, because they signed an agreement, saying they were going to follow the suggestions and the outlines made by the Office for Civil Rights. So we have that claim in there, and we certainly have proposed it to them. It's not like we've negated our duty to bring the law forward to them. Unfortunately, they have a different perspective on what their obligations are.
Chairman Riggs. You're saying, that even though you've brought it to their attention, even though the Office of Civil Rights has intervened, that they still haven't made changes which would suggest what my colleague is saying, that current law is inadequate. That it doesn't have enough teeth. Ms. Chavez.
Ms. Chavez. Well, first of all--
Mr. Martinez. Here again, that is the problem--
Chairman Riggs. Just a minute. Regular order, Mr. Martinez. We're going to give Ms. Chavez a chance to respond.
Ms. Chavez. Mr. Martinez, with all due respect, you weren't here when I started my testimony. But, one of the things that's quite disturbing to sit here, as somebody who's been involved in this issue for 20 years now, is to realize that a lot of the people who are voting on these laws, don't seem to have any idea how they're working at the local level. And I'm telling you that on the front lines, in the organization that I work for, when we are dealing with parents calling us up and saying, please do something for us, help our children learn English.
The law that has been written, the Office for Civil Rights has interpreted the Lau decision, in my view, incorrectly. And we are challenging it in court, because that is, under our system the way to go about it. Mr. Standridge is representing us in one case. We filed a suit two days ago in California representing another parent and his child in another bilingual education class.
We are going around the country, and we are in fact, challenging this in the courts, because we believe that the laws it's being interpreted by the Department of Education, is in fact, preventing children from learning English.
Now, you on this committee, don't seem to have the foggiest idea, how children are put into this program. You don't seem to have any idea what the testing mechanism is to get out, and you don't seem to have any idea what kinds of methods are used in the classroom. And I would give you, issue you, an invitation to come with me and visit some of these classrooms.
We just came back from Houston, Texas, and we saw the way Hispanic children were treated, and how differently they were treated--
Mr. Martinez. I'm sorry, Ms. Chavez. I need to interrupt you because you've made assumptions here, and that's what I said earlier. Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions. I have been in those classrooms. And I have seen programs that work, and I've seen programs that have not worked. And I've seen violations like you're talking about. And I say, that one of the things that I've said since I first got here, is we pass laws, and magically we think that the administration of those laws is going to be carried out with the intent by which we pass them.
I had that same problem when I was in the State legislature. If the people here, who have the oversight authority, do not exercise that oversight authority over the agencies, and make sure the agencies are enforcing the laws with the intent they were passed, then that's our problem right here in Congress, not the problem of the law.
And in this case, it's not the problem with bilingual education, it's the problem of enforcement of what's in that bilingual statute.
Ms. Chavez. Well--
Mr. Martinez. I have been to these classes, and I have seen where kids that do not belong--in fact, I thought not too long ago--in fact, it's been what, six months ago? Where I made sure that a kid that was put in a bilingual education program, that did not belong there out of his mother's protestation to me, to go to that school district and make sure that kid was transferred into a program that he should have been in. But that's when you take the responsibility of what you're going to do, not find fault with something that is beneficial to a lot of people that absolutely need it. And that's the problem.
We here have not exercised our oversight authority sufficiently. We have not made sure that the agencies that we relegate this responsibility to, have enforced it in the manner that we wanted it enforced, and carry out the law the way it is. And unless the citizens bring this to the Congress's attention, and make sure that they understand that they have the responsibility, it will continue to be like that.
We have the IRS problem. We have the EPA problem. We have agencies that think they are kingdoms unto themselves, and that they are the ones that have all the authority to impose conditions on people, when in actuality, none of them were elected to that responsibility, but we were.
Ms. Chavez. Mr. Martinez, just briefly. As I said, I've been working on this issue for 20 years. I've been writing about some of these abuses with those civil rights for that entire time. And with all due respect, Mr. Martinez, until 1994, when the democrats were in control, there were never any hearings. And when there were hearings on bilingual education, people like me were never invited to testify.
Thankfully, I will say, that one of your colleagues, Mr. Bonilla, did hold a hearing this year on the question of the Office for Civil Rights and it's enforcement of bilingual education. To my knowledge, this is the first time in the last 20 years, when anybody has looked at this issue. And this hearing today, is the second such hearing in that 20-year period that I've been involved with this issue, that any of these abuses have been talked about.
So, I'm glad that finally Congress is doing something about it, but for a long time, you didn't.
Mr. Martinez. Here again, you're wrong, because there are two people standing right--sitting right back in there, that can tell you when I was chairman of the Committee, that we looked into these situations, and we held hearings on them.
Ms. Chavez. You didn't invite me.
Mr. Martinez. So, here again, you're wrong. But you don't know is the problem here. And what you assume is the other problem.
Chairman Riggs. All right. Ms. Aranda?
Ms. Aranda. I want to say that I misunderstood his question, and that's what I don't want to happen to my kids. You know what I mean? I didn't understand why the question he made to me.
Chairman Riggs. Well, why don't you go ahead with your statement. And we're very sorry for digressing there.
Ms. Aranda. Okay. My name is Amada Aranda, and I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And I was born in Mexico. And we came here, I came, my family and me, came here, and we love this country. It has a lot of opportunities that I don't think I have seen, because of the lack of my language, you know. I think I can do better if I can speak more English, even at work, you know.
And, I'm sorry. Our five children have been enrolled in bilingual education since they entered kindergarten. We, as parents, did not know that we had a choice whether to place our children in bilingual education or not. As David said, they made us feel that--how do you call that--you know the language is--
Chairman Riggs. He said, questionnaire or survey, same thing.
Ms. Aranda. Yes. And they don't ask us if we want to place the kids on bilingual educational. They just placed them. And when they took my, you know, the kids out of the ESL classes, and we asked, why, and you know, they made a lot of--they gave us a lot of excuses. And then, one of them was because there was not enough kids to be placed in the ESL classes. But, how were we supposed to know? Nobody told us nothing, you know. We send our kids to school and we think they're going to do whatever is best for them.
And in Albuquerque, the children, the students, the ones that are asking for ESL classes, is not that we want to force them to go to ESL classes, they are the ones that think that they need the ESL classes, instead bilingual.
I have a niece, she's in second-grade. She's been going to bilingual classes since headstart. And she don't speak English at all. She waits for the teacher to explain her in Spanish, and I don't think that's fair. I have my 16-year-old daughter who has been placed in special education classes and I don't think that's fair either. You know, I have my 16-year-old daughter placed in those classes, and I have my 12-year-old daughter placed in special education classes.
[The statement of Ms. Aranda follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. AMADA ARANDA, PARENT, ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO – SEE APPENDIX G
Chairman Riggs. Both your 16-year-old and 12-year-old daughters are in special education class? And is that because they have a learning disability or because they are limited-English-proficient?
Ms. Aranda. Limited, yes.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Thank you very much. How well do your two daughters speak English?
Ms. Aranda. Well, let me tell you one thing. My oldest daughter--one day we went to the mall, and she was asking for applications, you know to get a job. And then, one of the ladies of one of stores started asking her a lot of questions about, you know, how much she was willing to make. You know, different questions. She walked out of there, and told me, ``I don't want to come back. I don't know what they were talking about.'' She has been going to school since she was in head-start--I mean, all her life.
Chairman Riggs. Are you saying both of your daughters participated in or attended head-start programs before entering the public schools?
Ms. Aranda. Yes, everybody.
Chairman Riggs. Is that correct?
Ms. Aranda. They were born right here in the United States.
Chairman Riggs. I see. Okay. Very good. Well, at this point, I'm going to give the opportunity to Ms. Chavez, Mr. Standridge, and Ms. Aranda to excuse themselves. I want to thank them for their testimony.
I also want to alert Ms. Chavez, in a few moments here, we'll be hearing from Mr. Jim Littlejohn. I don't know if you met Mr. Littlejohn, but he worked for OCR for 27 years and is going to discuss with us today, some abuses that he saw firsthand by OCR with respect to bilingual education. So I hope you might have an opportunity at some point to compare notes. All right?
We now turn--
Ms. Aranda. Can I say something real quick?
Chairman Riggs. You certainly may.
Ms. Aranda. A lot of parents that were on this, and a lot of them should step out of the, you know, because of their illegal status here. But there are a lot of parents that are, you know, asking for the ESL classes.
Chairman Riggs. Okay, thank you. Let me ask you, though, one other question, you and Mr. Standridge. And this is, you mentioned that your children have now been classified or assessed as having a learning disability or special needs, I don't know if you're aware that last year we updated and changed the Federal special education and civil rights statute, the law, called IDEA, Individual with Disabilities Education Act. One of our concerns is that too many of our children are being considered as having learning disabilities, when in fact, or in actuality, they simply haven't been provided the academic support that they need, and they're not being taught in an appropriate or effective manner. But I guess my question is have you met--and Mr. Standridge may have some knowledge on this--have you met with school officials regarding your children's special education plans or what is called an individual, and IEP,
Ms. Aranda. I never knew about it.
Chairman Riggs. Which is required under Federal law. You don't know anything about this thing?
Ms. Aranda. No. I barely request copies of the test that they have done to them and see--and I think from what I understand, she was tested when she was in fifth-grade. That's six years ago, and she hadn't been again.
Chairman Riggs. And did I understand correctly, that you requested that the school district evaluate her or test her for a learning disability?
Ms. Aranda. Yes. Request the test that she had. You know, why they placed her in the special education. Why she was placed or you know, and I remember something. I went to this meeting with the teacher on October. And I asked her, what grade-level Lizet was on math? Because that was the only class that she had on special education. And then, she said that Lizet was a third-grade level. And by December, Lizet was you know, up to the 11th-grade level in math. That happened in a month. I don't understand why--
Chairman Riggs. I'm really perplexed, because they should be involving you. They're required to notify and involve you under Federal law, now, this special education civil rights law, and to consult with you on what is called an IEP, this Individualized Education Plan for your children. You're saying--
Ms. Aranda. Oh, but not, yes. That's the meeting I went to. When the parents go and tell you. All they told me is she needs this, this, this, this, this, and this.
Chairman Riggs. Right. Okay.
Ms. Aranda. See, not only me, but other parents. What we expect, you know, schools to do, what's the best for our children.
Chairman Riggs. Of course.
Mr. Martinez. I would wonder if the chairman would join me in communicating to the Department of Education to look into this school district, or school, because they evidently are in violation of so many of the laws and statutes as they exist. And I'm wondering why it hasn't been reported to them, and why they have not taken an active role in educating the educators, because that's what needs to happen here. Because right in the law it says, ``Such parents shall also be informed that such parent may have the option of declining enrollment of their children and youth in such programs and shall be given the opportunity to decline, if such parents choose.''
That's the law, and these people are not following the laws. So if you would, Chairman Riggs, join me in communicating with Secretary of Education that somebody from that Department has to take a real hard look and explain the law to these people who are not following it.
Chairman Riggs. I would be happy to do that, given that we have invoked, obviously, the name of the U.S. Department of Education and specifically the Office of Civil Rights today. I don't want to interfere, obviously, in any ongoing litigation so we'll be careful not to do that, but we will inquire of them if they are aware of some of the concerns that have been raised today with respect to Albuquerque City Public Schools and we'll find out what, if anything, the Department has done or intends to do about the situation.
And again, I want to thank Ms. Chavez, Mr. Standridge and Ms. Aranda for being here today. You're excused.
Now, turn to Ms. Montero. Ms. Rita Montero is an elected member of the Denver Public School Board. Ms. Montero is a former champion of bilingual education until her own son was enrolled in the program. She's now the leading the Denver School District's charge to reform their bilingual education program. Ms. Montero, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your comments.
STATEMENT OF RITA MONTERO, PARENT AND MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DENVER, COLORADO
Ms. Montero. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to come here today to talk about the reform of bilingual education. I believe Mr. Becerra, or Representative Becerra, was under a misconception when he indicated that the nine members of the community were here to speak in favor of this bill.
I was asked to be here and that this was a hearing about the bill, but I came in particular to talk about the reformation of bilingual education. I think that it is also an assumption on behalf of some people that all of those who are here are right-wing elements who have right-wing tendencies, and that is also a misconception.
I am a political activist, a long-time political activist, who advocated for bilingual education in my earlier years. I'm a member, past national vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, and also worked in organizing farm workers for more than 10 years in the State of Colorado. I was the lead plaintiff in a suit against the establishment of English as the official language in the State of Colorado.
My child was placed, approximately five years ago, in a bilingual program, without my knowledge, until the day that I went to school to visit his classroom teacher, the day after school started, and found out that he had been placed in a bilingual program. I was okay with that, because we had raised my child speaking Spanish. However, when he went to school he was proficient in English. I thought this would be a great opportunity to have my child have his language enforced in a public educational system.
And that's why I didn't say anything once I found out he was placed in that program. However, once I did visit the classroom, I found that the class was at least two years behind English-speaking classes. My child, at the time, first grade, was reading, knew his name, could write his name, his address, knew his phone number, was doing mathematics, adding three-digit numbers, and knew some fractions. And when I went to the class, again, they were wholly behind the rest of the kids. He wasn't a gifted child. He was just a child who had had an opportunity to go to school, who had been given an education apart from his school.
When I asked that he be pulled out of the bilingual program they say, well, why don't you try and get him--because he was in a kindergarten/first grade--in a first/second grade and maybe he can work at a second grade level. I said fine.
They tested him out the following--at the end of the week I was informed that yes, he could go into a first/second grade and upon placing him in the first/second grade, I went to talk to that teacher, still bilingual education. The teacher could speak no Spanish whatsoever, and I said to her, ``How is that you are going to be able to talk to these children. This is a native language-speaking classroom. How can you talk to these children who are monolingual Spanish speakers when you have no ability to speak to the children?''
She said to me, well I have a very good aide. And I said, ``Excuse me, but your aide is not getting paid to present the curriculum to these children.''
I presented her with information on where he was, his portfolio that I had collected of all of the work that he had done so that she would know where to proceed with him.
At the end of the week I found that he was coming home with pieces of paper where he had written a number 1 across the sheet of paper, a number 2 across the sheet of paper, and a number 3 across the sheet of paper, and so on, and so forth, when this child was already adding three-digit numbers.
I went back to the school and said to the teacher I want him out of this class and I want him to be placed in an English-speaking class and, perhaps, he can proceed at a faster pace.
She said I would have to talk to the principal, so I did. I spoke to Ms. Chavez, Ms. Chavez said to me, ``No, your child will not be moved out of a bilingual program because you answered yes to one of the five questions on the questionnaire that you received.''
And the Keys case mandates, which is a desegregation order that was part of the bilingual case, and so I walked out of there. I wanted to talk with her some more and she turned her back on me and said, ``Ms. Montero, I am not going to argue with you'' and she walked away from me.
I went to every level in the educational institution to try and get that turned around. No one would listen to me. I went all the way to the administration. I spoke to school board members. I spoke to the head of bilingual education. I pulled my child out of the program for three days until they would straighten the issue out.
I heard not from anybody and, luckily, my child, I had put his name on the list for a magnet school within Denver Public Schools, called the school, they said they had some openings, this was about the second, third, week of school beginning at the beginning of the year. They had space and they took him there. The lady proceeded to tell me at the counter, when I went to the new school, ``Well, we notice that your child was in bilingual education, but we don't have one of those programs here but we do have EASL, would you like your child in an EASL?'
I said, absolutely not. I don't want my child anywhere near an EASL program or a bilingual program. I would prefer to just be placed in an English-speaking class. So that is my experience in bilingual education. He was safe at that time.
My brother then came to me the next day and said, I heard that you got your child out of the program and my kids have been in the program--I didn't know this--for two years and he has struggled to try to get his kids out. I started to think about all the other kids, all the other parents I had heard about continuously and their efforts to get their children out of bilingual education, so I filed a motion to intervene in the Keys case. I wrote the motion myself. I argued the motion before a Federal judge. My motion was denied. I filed a motion for reconsideration and I, to this day, still have not heard about it.
So, with that, I went on to run for Board of Education. I was elected to the Board of Education and, as an elected member of the Board of Education, proceeded to try and get the district to revamp the program. We have done that. We spent a year evaluating the program and came up with, and changed, the name from bilingual education to English language acquisition program because of the confusion it was creating, not only among the Spanish speakers but amongst the English speakers as well.
We now have a three-year transitional program which allows a child to stay in at least one more year if they do not proceed at the same level that the other kids are proceeding in.
We have qualified teachers now for the first time, greater oversight, a change in the parent questionnaire, parent approval, and other issues that were important for the program.
The one reason that I'm here today, and I know that my time is over, is to talk about some of those issues that Mr. Becerra talked about, and Mr. Martinez alluded to, and that is that there are important issues that this House bill is addressing, with respect to English language acquisition.
The first bill addresses head-on the issue of parent permission by requiring the student's parent to provide exclusive consent before a student is placed in an English language acquisition program. In addition, the parent may have their child removed from the program upon the parent's request, and this is really important. The real issue for Denver Public Schools, however, has been the persistent tendency of the Department of Education to overstep its bounds and attempt to force its views on general educational policy on local school districts. In the guise of enforcing the Federal civil rights laws, OCR continuously has overstepped and has stepped into the province of local decision-making authority. That is wrong. Thus, I encourage Congress to use its oversight role to preserve local decision-making authority for general educational policy. Congress should help ensure that all Federal laws, regulations, and policies which impact English language acquisition, such Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 200d and the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. Section 1701-1758 are not being used, or that they are not being used appropriately by the Department of Education to impose Federal control on local school districts.
And with that, I would like to thank you for allowing me an opportunity to come here, not necessarily to speak in favor of the bill as it stands, although I do support the idea of parent permission, but to get other folks to start looking at and reforming bilingual education. There are problems on both sides. I think that educational institutions have abused their authority in terms of how they have provided the program to kids. I think that the political activists have also abused their authority in saying that they represent parents when, in fact, they do not know what parents want.
[The statement of Ms. Montero follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MS. RITA MONTERO, PARENT AND MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DENVER, COLORADO – SEE APPENDIX H
Chairman Riggs. Thank you.
Ms. Montero. I might say, Mr. Chairman, that I do have a problem. I had a death in the family the day before coming here, and I would like to catch an 8 o'clock flight out of here to attend the funeral tomorrow.
Chairman Riggs. Of course, you leave anytime, obviously, that you need to. I just want to thank you for your very compelling testimony. I extend the invitation to work with us, to refine, and improve the legislation and, just for your successful efforts at reforming bilingual education or English language acquisitions skills in Denver. I really think you are to be commended and you are obviously living proof that you can fight city hall.
Ms. Montero. There is one issue in your bill that talks about mastering English and I think that if you don't delineate what that means, does a child master English, orally, in a written form, I think that needs to be laid out so that, again, you don't have people misconstruing and misrepresenting what it is that the intention of this bill is.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Let me ask you a question since obviously you have a legal knowledge as well as a practical knowledge of how Federal and State law is working or being applied locally in the community of Denver. In your district, I'm told--I'm assuming this is pretty much typical of all major urban school districts in the country--there are a large number of economically disadvantaged students.
Ms. Montero. Yes.
Chairman Riggs. If you are required to use the rigid cutoff of the 30th percentile, would disadvantaged children who are English speakers fail and, if so, is OCR requiring a higher standard from non-English-speaking students than of other English-speaking students and could this be as, perhaps, Ms. Chavez suggested earlier, a form of discrimination.
Ms. Montero. Absolutely. In speaking with the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights, we have been, a complaint has been brought against our district from the Office of Civil Rights. We negotiated with them. They abruptly broke off the negotiations, they turned our case over to the Department of Education, the Department of Education did not, or refused to, negotiate with us, and sent this on to the Department of Justice.
The things that we were stuck on, that was one of the exact confrontations that we had. One, they objected to parent approval. When we sat down with the Department of Education people here in Washington, D.C., they explicitly, and heatedly, argued with me that parents do not have the right to remove their child from the bilingual program, no way, no shape, no form.
They also used this criteria of the influence of another language. This is dangerous language because anyone who has the influence of another language in their home can be caught in bilingual education. There are fluent English speakers who may have a grandparent that lives in their home who speaks Spanish, or some other language, but because they check on the questionnaire that, yes, there is the influence of another language, that child is automatically placed in a bilingual education program.
In addition, OCR and the Department of Education have refused to negotiate with the district because we have said it is not fair to hold native language speakers to the standard of a 30th percentile on a national standardized test. It is just not fair. We have English speakers in our district who, to this day, are unable, some of them, to reach the 30th percentile. So you are holding this child back and we have asked them, allow us to use not only particular test scores, but allow us to use teacher judgment, other testing devices, such as their written work. OCR and the Department of Education have refused to allow those things to be a part of determining whether or not a child can exit the program.
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Ms. Montero. Let me ask you--I want to make sure I understand--are the Denver Public Schools currently under any kind of court order or consent decree?
Ms. Montero. Yes, we are.
Chairman Riggs. And, I'm sure how that affects bilingual education.
Ms. Montero. It does affect bilingual education. In the early 1970's, a suit was brought against the district, a desegregation suit, and then later on the plaintiffs in the bilingual program asked for intervenor status and brought in the bilingual program into the Keys case, which is the desegregation order.
As a result of that, the Federal court order did ask the district, and demanded that the district put together a plan for bilingual education. One of the things that has hurt our district, as well, is that under Federal law, of which OCR and the Department of Education don't understand, is that the Federal judge allowed to have unqualified teachers in the classroom. And OCR and other folks demand that we have qualified teachers, which is something that we think is important, has to be put in place, not just in Colorado, but across the country.
And so, yes, we are under a Federal court order and there are different guidelines that we have been given by the Federal court as opposed to those guidelines, policies, not law, policies that the Office of Civil Rights chooses to enforce upon us. So, we have these contradictions where, one, the Federal court says that you can have unqualified people in the classroom; OCR says you can't. We also have the Federal court that says we can transition a child if they are not at the 30th percentile within two years, even if they haven't reached the 30th percentile; yet, on the other hand you have OCR and the Department of Education saying, you have to have this strict percentile from the national standardized tests.
Chairman Riggs. I see. Thank you very much again for your testimony. Mr. Littlejohn, I'm going to skip by you, if you don't mind, and go down to Dr. Lopez, and then I am going back to you. I'm going then to Superintendent Trujillo who has waited very very patiently, and gentlemen, Mr. Stone and Mr. Boulet, we're going to finish with you, if that is agreeable to you. That's sort of the line-up.
So, Dr. Lopez, thank you for being here. You teach at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, right up the road. Dr. Lopez has conducted research on the impact and the future implications of bilingual education on children, and so thank you for being here, sir. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF MARK LOPEZ, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND
Mr. Lopez. Thank you very much. Thank you for the invitation. I was very excited about coming here today. I wanted to tell you a little bit about some of the research that I've done, which is not necessarily directly related to the bill that we're discussing here today but that is some new research that might prove useful in evaluating and looking at the way programs are currently run today.
What I've done, and part of this is through my dissertation work at Princeton University in economics, and also part of it is through work that I've collaborated with a colleague of mine on from New Mexico State University, Marie Mora.
What we have found, we decided that we should take a look not at the usual suspects that you look at when you look at research on bilingual ed. Usual research looks at academic achievement and English proficiency while the student is in school. That makes a lot of sense and J.P. Greene's research which was referred to earlier here today is a good example of that, which tends to show that there some modest benefits to having gone through a bilingual program relative to not going through a program for a group of students who have qualified for such programs.
As an alternative, my colleague and I decided we would try taking a look at the longer-term effects. One way one can measure the effectiveness of a program, of course, is by looking at student performance in the labor market, looking at student educational achievement later on in life. And what we decided to do was use some large national data sets that have recently become available which have a link between participation in bilingual programs in secondary and primary school and later on labor market and educational achievement.
And what we found were the following: First off, in terms of dropping out of school, and there is a lot of concern about high school dropouts, because bilingual education students are predominately Hispanic. Hispanic students drop out at a much higher rate than non-Hispanic students. And when we looked at the drop-out rate, we found that students who had gone through bilingual programs were actually more likely to leave school by 10th grade, but by 12th grade, there was actually no difference in the drop-out rate between bilingual ed. participants and non-participants.
Looking a little bit later on, we found that by the age of 28, there was actually only a slight difference in the probability that a student will return to school to achieve their high school diploma. And that difference is only about 3 percentage points, that is bilingual ed. students were less likely to go back to school and get their GED's, but only by 3 percentage points, that's not a big difference.
However, we did begin to see bigger differences elsewhere, and some of those differences are in the following areas: Bilingual ed. students were 11 percentage points less likely to actually attain a college diploma by age 28. They were also, by age 28, actually having achieved about a half a year less of education. I'm a labor economist by training, and a half year of education may not sound like a lot, but magnify that half a year of education later on in life and we know that for each additional year that a student completes in school, earnings go up about 8 percent. So you imagine, that later on in life any differences in educational attainment that we observe while they are young, are going to become hugely magnified by the time they become age 40 or 50.
Which leads me to perhaps the most striking results, which are those for labor market performance. In terms of earnings, by age 28. We took at look at all students who participated in bilingual programs. We found actually no effect for having gone through a bilingual program, positive or negative, basically, statistically insignificant.
However, when we just concentrated on one particular group, and the reason why we did this was because we felt, well, who is most likely to benefit from these programs? The people who are most likely to benefit, of course, are immigrant children, and which group is the largest group of students who participate in these programs? It's Hispanics.
So, looking at Hispanic immigrant children, those who went through programs versus those who qualified but did not go through the program, we observed about 35 percent lower earnings for bilingual ed participants than for nonparticipants.
That's a large difference and that's at the age of 28. Now there are some problems with the research. This is not a random study; it's a nonrandom study. And we've done our best to control for as many prelabor market and labor market observable conditions that these particular students have. For example, they come from poorer families. We've controlled for that. They come from poorer schools. We've controlled for that as well.
And yet, we can still continue to find this particular difference. Now keep in mind we don't see this difference for non-Hispanics. We only see it for Hispanics who went through bilingual education programs. And our take on these results is that, while these results are striking, there are other potential explanations for them and we've gone to great lengths to investigate those explanations and we're still in the process of investigating a few of them.
One of them appears to be differences in occupational distributions or occupational attainment. And another one appears to be that these programs may be significantly different today than they were back in the 1970's, and these kids that we are looking at went through programs in the 1970's.
But to sum up here, what I just wanted to bring to your attention was that, in looking at evaluating bilingual education programs, there is more than just looking at academic achievement and immediate English proficiency. Perhaps another way to look at this is to also consider the longer-term labor market effect in educational achievement, effects that are associated with these programs.
[The statement of Mr. Lopez follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MR. MARK LOPEZ, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND – SEE APPENDIX I
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Lopez, thank you very much for sharing your research. How big a sample is involved here? And, you say it goes back to the 1970's, so it looks like it is a fairly longitudinal look, but give us the time frame involved as well.
Mr. Lopez. There are two data sets that we are using here. The first data set is high school and beyond. High school and beyond was conducted in 1980 and it looked at high school sophomores in 1980.
They were followed up subsequently every two years through 1986 and, by the way this is the National Center for Education Statistics data set, were followed up once again when they were age 28 in 1992.
The sample sizes that we are looking at here for the education effects that I reported to you, the long-term education effects, are in the order of 2,500 students. That's a lot of students. However, the labor market effects that we report to you are a slightly smaller sample size of 2,100 students. But when you look just at Hispanics and dividing up by immigrant generation, we are getting relatively small sample sizes, and one of the sample sizes for the first generation immigrant Hispanic sample size was about 220 or so.
But still, even conditional on a lot of additional covariants and controlling for many different things, we are still finding this relatively strong difference.
For the drop-out figures, the data set is a National Education longitudinal study of 1988 and those students were interviewed in 1988 as eighth graders and the sample size there is approximately 3,500 students.
Chairman Riggs. And it sounds like you stopped short of making some sort of definitive conclusion, comparing the education that English proficient or English fluent students receive and those of limited English proficiency who went through some sort of bilingual education program, probably the traditional bilingual education program, it sounds like.
Mr. Lopez. Our intention here was to try to mimic the perfect experiment, and what would be a good experiment to mimic. And I'm not comparing these to English-only or English-speaking students, these are--what we are looking at here is the sample of students who will qualify for bilingual programs, who would have given the procedures that States and school districts use, would have been identified as such or potentially identified as bilingual ed participants. So we're looking at a set of students who, in some sense or another, had some sort of nonEnglish language experience and were limited English proficient at some point.
Chairman Riggs. I see that, but did you actually confirm that they participated in a bilingual education program?
Mr. Lopez. Well, we can't go back and find the actual individual--we can't go back and interview the students, the Department of Education won't allow us to that, but from the survey data that the Department of Education provides, these students self-reported participation in the program. So you might actually think that they are self-reporting their participation, some of the students we might be picking up, might be the successes, the students who had positive experiences in bilingual programs, and yet, even, with that positive upward bias on the effect, we're still finding relative to a group of immersed students, the bilingual ed students are doing poorly.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Thank you very much Dr. Lopez.
Mr. Lopez. Thank you.
Chairman Riggs. I appreciate your being here.
Mr. Jim Littlejohn is from the Sea Ranch, which I happen to know from personal knowledge, and is from Sonoma County, California. He, as I mentioned earlier, worked for the Office of Civil Rights in the Federal Department of Education for 27 years and is here today to share with us his experiences and discuss, as I said before, abuses that he knows of first hand, with respect to bilingual education.
So, Mr. Littlejohn, thank you for being here. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF JAMES M. LITTLEJOHN, JIM LITTLEJOHN CONSULTING, THE SEA RANCH, CALIFORNIA
Mr. Littlejohn. Thank you for hearing my testimony. During most of my 27 years in the Office of Civil Rights, I had significant responsibilities for developing and implementing policies on issues relating to English language learners. I am not opposed to transitional bilingual education programs. I have consistently been opposed to Federal requirements or practices that have the force of requirement which favor bilingual programs over English immersion instruction.
Since 1993, it appears that OCR has generally interpreted policy in ways that are much more restrictive than was intended, having the effect of forcing many school systems to reorder their educational priorities to implement valuable programs, and to allocate scarce resources according to the preferences of the Federal bureaucrats, almost none of whom have a background in administering school systems.
The Civil Rights Division of DOJ apparently is supporting these interpretations.
Some of these requirements fly in the face of common sense. In the late 1970's, OCR attempted to require a remote Alaskan village to develop a written language for a Native Alaskan dialect so that the local school could implement a bilingual education program.
Today, OCR and DOJ have been working in concert with the Navajo nation to require the San Juan School District in Utah to develop student literacy in Navajo and establish a curriculum that will be instructed in the Navajo language. In this district 53 percent of the Navajo students are fluent in English; and only 19 percent are fluent in Navajo. When district officials objected to the more intrusive demands of the plaintiff's representatives, they were threatened with court proceedings.
My concerns with current civil rights enforcement may be summarized in the following six points.
One, there is currently an OCR bias favoring bilingual education programs. I estimate that since 1992 OCR has obtained several hundred compliance agreements from schools across the Nation, many of which likely require some form of bilingual education. The plans I reviewed emphasized bilingual education and contained no time frames for moving students into English, or any sense of urgency that students should become fluent in English.
Two, OCR-required procedures over-identify students who may need assistance. OCR requires districts to use home language surveys and teacher checklist questions about the language first used by the student, the language spoken in the home, and other similar information. Any mention of a language other than English on the language survey or teacher checklist automatically classifies the student as having a home language other than English, even if the student is a fluent English speaker.
Three, OCR-required procedures place in bilingual programs, students who may be fluent in English. Students identified as having a home language other than English are tested to determine their English language proficiency, in the categories of oral language, reading, writing, and comprehension. If the student scores below the designated cut-off point in any of these categories, the student is designated as LEP and must be placed into an alternative language program even if the student is a fluent English speaker.
Four, OCR's requirements inappropriately extend LEP students’ participation in language programs. OCR requires to maintain students in an alternative language program until the student is proficient in English speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension skills. Many students who speak only English never meet these standards.
Five, OCR requires schools to discourage parents from removing their children from bilingual programs. Although students may be placed in bilingual programs without parental permission, OCR requires written parental refusal forms before a child can be removed from the program.
Six, OCR and DOJ abuse their Federal authority by obtaining coerced bilingual program agreements. School systems that prefer not to implement bilingual education programs, in general, are unable or unwilling to risk losing Federal moneys or to pay the legal fees necessary to challenge Federal authorities on the matters of civil rights law, even when the demands made by Federal agents lack the clear authority of the law.
Finally, with regard to comment on the proposed H.R. 3680, I reviewed a summary of H.R. 3680 and believe that the bill provides straightforward procedures for assisting students to achieve mastery of the English language. I particularly support having States apply for block grants and letting the States decide the funding for individual school systems. The State officials have a much better grasp of where the funds should go than Department of Ed staff.
I would also encourage Congress to take a look at this approach with regard to the civil rights enforcement requirements, looking at more of a State approach as opposed to a district-by-district approach.
[The statement of Mr. Littlejohn follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MR. JAMES M. LITTLEJOHN, JIM LITTLEJOHN CONSULTING, THE SEA RANCH, CALIFORNIA – SEE APPENDIX J
Chairman Riggs. Mr. Littlejohn, thank you for some very insightful and helpful testimony and we look forward, hopefully, to have an opportunity to pose questions to you. I do want to turn now, though, to Superintendent Trujillo who has been waiting very patiently.
I want to announce also to my colleagues, particularly Congressman Scott, who has not had an opportunity to share his views, that I believe this is probably the last recorded vote of the day, and week, but I hope you will return and we will make sure you will have that opportunity.
Superintendent Trujillo, those bells indicate that we have 10 minutes, and so we should have adequate time to hear your testimony, sir. Then we'll excuse ourselves, go to the floor and vote, and come back as soon as possible. And I must ask you to pronounce the name of the school district that you had in El Paso, Texas.
STATEMENT OF ANTHONY J. TRUJILLO, SUPERINTENDENT, YSELTA INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, EL PASO, TEXAS
Mr. Trujillo. Good afternoon. My name is Anthony J. Trujillo. I am superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District, Ysleta, in El Paso, Texas.
The Ysleta Independent School District educates over 47,000 students on 57 campuses. We are the gateway to the United States. El Paso is referred to as El Paso del Norte, which translates The Pass of the North.
Ysleta's ISD student body is comprised of 86 percent Hispanic, 11 percent Anglo, and 3 percent African American. Approximately 40 percent of the enrollment is predominately Spanish speaking. Ysleta ISD today is the highest achieving urban system in the State of Texas. We have done this with 75 percent of the student population being below the poverty level. The district ranks 832nd of the State's 1,307 school districts in property wealth. Ysleta is a poor school district and predominately Hispanic, yet it outscores all of the urban school districts in Texas on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test, TAAS. If there were a national test, Ysleta would surpass all the urban school districts in the United States.
I am here today to oppose H.R. 3680, because it is founded on faulty premises. First, it portrays the primary purpose of bilingual education programs to teach students to speak English. This is a false assumption. The primary purpose of bilingual programs it to develop students total academic preparation while they are in the transition in learning to use English. Bilingual education is about mathematics, social studies, writing, and other academic skills. The language is merely the vehicle by which these skills are acquired. There is not a single student enrolled in our school system who cannot speak English, but bilingual education does not concern itself with merely social or conversational English. We are more concerned with academic English, the language in which students will continue their academic development.
Secondly, H.R. 3680 is founded on the belief that bilingual education is not working. I am sure that there are some programs, individual students, and teachers who are not being successful, but to assert that it is not working is to deny that districts such as Ysleta exist. In our district, 85 percent of all students passed the reading exam; 81 percent passed the mathematics exam; and 86 passed the writing exam of the TAAS. According to the Texas Accountability System, we have 24 schools that are either recognized or exemplary and we have no low-performing campuses.
Before 1994, Ysleta had an early transition program where students began learning exclusively in English in the second grade. Our tests scores clustered in the 50 to 60 percent range, while now we are exceeding 80 percent on all of our tests. With the help of Title VII, we have reformed and restructured our programs so that all students who enroll in our schools will graduate from high school fluently bilingual, all students, fluently bilingual, and prepared to enter a four-year college or university.
Our test scores in English are soaring.
The remedy being proposed by H.R. 3680 is analogous to asserting that if an international test shows that math achievements by students in this country are unacceptably low, that we should eliminate math programs or legislate that all math must be learned in a two-year span.
H.R. 3680 makes a mockery of what we know about the learning process. In order to punctuate my point, let me compare two major urban school districts in Texas.
Austin ISD, the home of the State capitol, home of the great University of Texas, center of the Texas technology industry, a city populated with educated professionals, has less than 6 percent of their students in bilingual education classes.
By comparison to Ysleta, only 74 percent of Austin's students passed the reading exam, 64 percent passed the mathematics exam, 77 percent passed the writing exam of the TAAS. Ysleta students outscored Austin students by 5 to 9 percentage points on every test even though we have 75 percent low-income students, compared to their 50 percent. Our dropout rate is 2.1 percent, compared to Austin's 4.6 percent.
If English only equates greater success, why isn't Austin doing better than Ysleta? What I'm talking about is the quality of programs, not whether or not we use more than one language. In quality bilingual education programs, such as those supported by Title VII in Ysleta, students do learn English. As part of the Title VII reform, we are closely monitoring the language proficiency of 9,400 students in bilingual education. Our data shows that within three years, 78 percent of them are passing their English language proficiency test, and we have provided immediate intervention for the remainder, 22 percent.
I've about half more to go, so I am going to summarize.
A lot of testimony has been given here. I am going to agree primarily with Mr. Martinez. The law is in place. These laws were not passed, you know, willy-nilly. The issue here today that I've heard, and the testimony that I've heard, is that these laws are not being properly implemented. And that the Federal Government, once it passes this law, has an obligation to ensure that they are properly implemented.
I want to say two things about block grants. First of all, let me remind you that block grants to 50 States multiplies 50 times the bureaucracies. Secondly, the record of States rights and local control has not been an exquisite record in this country.
My State and all of the southern States kept the children of those States in a separate, segregated State for almost 100 years under the doctrine of State rights and local control. Your witnesses have testified today to many abuses and many faux pas by local government and, yet, this bill would give those folks there even more latitude.
So let me tell you that I think this entire discussion is a no-brainer. Is it better to know one language or two or three? In Ysleta, our students are graduating prepared to enter a four-year college or university and speaking more than one language. We are producing students superior to those educated in only English. H.R. 3680 is built on some flimsy evidence, faulty thinking, and ignorance of pedagogy and the learning process. The old expression of throwing the baby out with the bath water is certainly applicable to this bill.
[The statement of Mr. Trujillo follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MR. ANTHONY TRUJILLO, SUPERINTENDENT, YSELTA INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, EL PASO, TEXAS – SEE APPENDIX K
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Superintendent Trujillo. We look forward to the opportunity of having some give and take here. We are going to stand in recess here, very shortly, gentlemen, go and vote and return immediately, so if you can bear with us, we'll be back very shortly.
Chairman Riggs. All right, gentlemen, and our audience, if you'll be seated. We now turn to Eric Stone for his testimony. Mr. Stone is the Director of Research at U.S. English, an organization, I believe, based here in Washington, D.C. And thank you for waiting so patiently, Mr. Stone. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF ERIC J. STONE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, U.S. ENGLISH, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Stone. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families.
My name is Eric Stone. I am the director of research for U.S. English Inc., the Nation's oldest and largest citizen's advocacy group devoted to protecting English as the common language of the United States.
On behalf of the over 1.2 million members of U.S. English nationwide, I would like to thank you for allowing me to testify in favor of H.R. 3680, the English Language Fluency Act.
First of all, let me make one thing perfectly clear. U.S. English firmly believes that students of limited English proficiency should receive help in learning English. Our goal is to ensure that every student learns English, so they can take advantage of the wonderful opportunities this Nation has to offer. I believe that most people here, and throughout the United States, share that goal.
U.S. English believes the Federal Government has a legitimate role in achieving that goal. Since the number of limited English proficiency students is directly related to our national immigration policies, it is only fair that the Federal Government help States and localities to deal with the impact of those policies. While the current law regarding the teaching of English to students with limited English proficiency is misguided, and has had some disastrous results, Congress cannot merely wash its hands of the subject and then turn the issue back to the States. Instead, Congress has the responsibility to reform Federal law to create a sensible policy that will help immigrant students to learn English.
We believe H.R. 3680 is a responsible, balanced approach to correcting the flaws in our Nation's education of limited English proficiency children.
U.S. English has no ideological commitment to any particular methodology of teaching students English. But we are ideologically committed to a particular outcome: English fluency as soon as possible.
Let me put it another way: We do not care whether a particular program for teaching students uses the students’ native language or not, as long as the students are learning English well and within a reasonable time frame.
Current Federal law, however, commits 75 percent of Federal funding to just one type of program: Bilingual education; that is, programs which spend much of their time teaching students their regular schools subjects in their native languages. While this is an improvement over a previous policy which committed over 90 percent of Federal funds to such programs, it is still the result of an ideological commitment to one particular process, rather than a commitment to making sure students learn English.
Some of bilingual education's proponents seem more committed to the means--bilingual education--than to the end--English fluency.
It is a truism that the end does not justify the means. But neither do the means justify the end, if in the end students are left with only a limited command of the English language.
H.R. 3680 is committed to the goal of English fluency, rather than to promoting one particular mode of instruction. This bill does not prescribe the methods to be used to help students to learn English. The program referred to by Mr. Trujillo, in his school district, would not be prohibited under H.R. 3680 and, in fact, it could very well be used as a model in other school districts.
This bill does introduce the idea of tracking how individual students are doing and shifting funds from programs that aren't working to programs that are. This gives schools an incentive to make sure that they are committed to the end--English fluency--and not the means.
The current law's lack of proper tracking and accountability has led to some perverse incentives. Rather than developing programs that teach English effectively, so that students are quickly able to move into mainstream classes, schools have an incentive to keep as many students in bilingual education for as long as possible, in order to receive extra funding.
The risk of losing funds may be why school bureaucrats sometimes fight so hard to keep parents from moving their children out of bilingual education classes. Parents in Brooklyn, New York, sued the State because their children were staying for years in bilingual education classes without learning enough English to move to regular classes.
Parents in Los Angeles kept their children out of school for two weeks in a boycott of bilingual education classes, because they wanted more English instruction. And an African-American parent in Oakland was surprised to find his English-speaking son had been placed in a Cantonese bilingual education classroom, and has been stymied in his efforts to remove his child from that class.
Under the provisions of H.R. 3680, a child could be placed in a bilingual education class only with the parents' consent, and parents would be able to remove their children from the program upon request. This important item--parental choice--is a key reform. It introduces an element of market competition to the programs designed to teach English to students of limited English proficiency. With the accountability and reporting requirements of this bill, parents will be able to see how well different programs perform in teaching English, and will be able to move their children from programs that fail to programs that succeed.
Ultimately, that is what our efforts here today are about, helping children succeed. On behalf of U.S. English members nationwide, I urged the members of this subcommittee to keep in mind the goal of English fluency, and to do everything in their power to achieve it. Our Nation's children deserve it.
[The statement of Mr. Stone follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MR. ERIC STONE, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, U.S. ENGLISH, WASHINGTON, DC – SEE APPENDIX L
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Stone. And thank you, also, for mentioning Mr. George Louie who testified at our field hearing in San Diego and who brought his very precocious and beautiful son down to the hearing. I say precocious in that he tried to take his microphone away from his dad during the course of the hearing. I think he ended up ultimately sitting with us up on the panel.
A very beautiful little boy. I believe, but maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought it was Mandarin Chinese.
Mr. Stone. It was Cantonese.
Chairman Riggs. It was Cantonese. Well, I'm glad you correct my recollection, but I'm glad also that you made that point and mentioned that the young lad is, of course, English proficient. And again, I believe, but we'll discuss this further here in a moment, but I believe the Oakland city schools are another large urban school district that's under a court order or some sort of decree with regard to bilingual education.
Last, but certainly not least, is Mr. Jim Boulet, the Executive Director of English First.
Jim, thank you for waiting so patiently all this time. Please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF JIM BOULET, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENGLISH FIRST, SPRINGFIELD, VIRGINIA
Mr. Boulet. Thank you, Congressman Riggs. Let me step aside from my testimony to say, thank you. You didn't have to do this. You didn't have to take on this fight, but it's important for the kids.
Chairman Riggs. Call me, after the debate we have on the floor today on D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, a glutton for punishment.
Mr. Boulet. And what's important here--I've been listening to some of the testimony and I'm reminded of the definition of a fanatic is someone, when confronted with failure, redoubles his efforts.
And, in listening to some of the other testimony we've heard on the joys of bilingual education, I learned something. I learned that bilingual education was responsible for every improved test score and everything that doesn't work is somebody else's fault: It's the home, it's the economy, it's the weather.
Let me turn to what I've written down here.
Good morning, good evening, I guess we're on, Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee.
My name is Jim Boulet Jr., and I'm the Executive Director of English First. I have the honor of representing 140,000 members nationwide. Many of us were in this same room in 1994 when the then-House Committee on Education and Labor reauthorized Federal education law.
That was an interesting time. Congresswoman Mink added an amendment in which the United States apologized for making Hawaii a State. Delegate Carlos Romero-Barcelo won taxpayer funding to help Puerto Rican children improve their Spanish. And, somehow, Head Start was rewritten to keep 3-and 4-year-old children from being taught English in the name of family unity, they finally were interested in that.
That year, English First teamed up with then-Congressman Toby Roth to fight for an end for bilingual education on the House floor. We lost. How times have changed. We're here today because of your leadership, Mr. Chairman, and your legislation, the English Language Fluency Act. Also on this subcommittee, sits Ron Paul, who has seen Houston, Texas, schools forced to hire teachers from Mexico who spoke no Spanish [cq] for their bilingual program.
Members of Congress, like Tom DeLay of Texas, Bob Stump of Arizona, Peter King of New York, and John Doolittle of California, have also introduced legislation on this important issue and with the hard work of leaders like Bob Livingston and Jerry Solomon, the issue is moving.
In my written testimony, I address four issues. Boiled down, this is the considered opinion of English First as well as that of many other experts: Bilingual education survives in this country, not because it helps children learn English, it doesn't; nor does it survive because parents demand it; they don't. Bilingual education survives because the bilingual bureaucracy insists on it. Frankly there is more support for bilingual education inside the Washington, D.C. beltway than inside the rest of the country combined.
Studies show that 90 percent of bilingual education programs are no better, or even worse, than doing nothing. That means, bilingual education is an $8 billion unfunded mandate that keeps immigrant children from learning our national tongue when it is easiest for them to do so. Those who defend the effectiveness of bilingual education--it's like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall, listening to some of this. They confuse the idea that it is good to know a second language, which is a good thing, with the idea of bilingual education which is allegedly supposed to teach English.
These are the people who think that kids in bilingual education programs should take achievement tests in Spanish, which this administration has proposed, and at a hearing before Appropriations a few weeks ago, said how the program is working, well, we're giving achievement tests in Spanish and they are doing better.
Well, if you can't take a test in English in high school, how are you going to fill out a job application?
My second point is that bilingual education is mandatory despite claims made in this room over the years. As California is finding out, thanks to President Clinton's statement that if they pass, you know, we're going to sue, that bilingual education is not mandatory unless you try to do anything else. Then you get sued. Out in Orange County, they said we don't want to do something else, got sued by MALDEF, got sued by the State, got sued by--for goodness, it's not mandatory but ``you'd better not try anything else,'' then you're in court.
Thirdly, I address the question of how long should bilingual education last? A review of Congressional hearings on this issue, very few of which included any opponents of bilingual education, reveals the following: When Congress proposes no limit, none is offered; if a limit is hinted at, then bilingual education advocates insists that the program needs an additional one to two years beyond the proposed limits.
These hearings have traditionally included a person who is a successful graduate of bilingual education, but the failures are never here. Why? They can't speak English well enough to testify.
Just ask Ernesto Ortiz, a foreman on a South Texas ranch who said, my children learn Spanish in school so they grow up to be bus boys and waiters. I teach them English at home so they can be doctors and lawyers.
I urge supports of bilingual education, I've said this many times, to be honest about their real agenda, which is to use the taxpayers' money to maintain the language and culture of immigrants and their children at the expense of immigrants.
Let's have a roll call on that and let's see what the result is. The yoke of the bilingual education mandate must be removed from the necks of these children.
Mr. Chairman, bilingual education has had 30 years to prove its worth, and you go to presentation at the National Academy of Sciences. You know what they say? ``Boy, we wish we had more research.'' ``Boy, we don't know if this works or not.''
After 30 years, it's time to say enough is enough.
[The statement of Mr. Boulet follows:]
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF MR. JIM BOULET, JR., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENGLISH FIRST, SPRINGFIELD, VIRGINIA – SEE APPENDIX M
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Boulet. We very much appreciate your very provocative and cogent testimony, although I'm sure Mr. Martinez and I probably have--
Mr. Boulet. Oh, speaking of Mr. Martinez, I learned today. I'm going to add a provision to your bill. If your bill doesn't pass and you want your kid out of bilingual education, you should send a note to your Congressman, because we've now learned that that is one way to get your kid out of the program.
Chairman Riggs. Absolutely. I don't think anybody would question that. We are sort of the ombudsman of last resort for any matters that fall under the jurisdiction of Federal Government or the scope of Federal law.
But let me ask you four gentlemen, one very, very specific question and that is, our bill proposes to allow States to choose or to allow States to allow the local education agency to choose the method of instruction used to bring English language learners--or to help English language learners achieve English fluency.
Do you agree with that approach, or should that decision, that choice, if you will, regarding which method of instruction is most appropriate for children within a particular school district or at a particular school site, should that decision and choice be driven all the way down to the local level and made by the LEA?
And let me just go straight down the panel, starting with you, Mr. Littlejohn.
Mr. Littlejohn. Mr. Trujillo and I were talking about that. I generally agree with it; I think the closer to the school you can make that decision, you know, the better. I think the question is what guidelines, you know, would be provided the States to have programs to make sure they meet whatever the civil rights requirements are. And I don't think they are necessarily what OCR says they are, but there are some requirements to be met, and those minimal requirements should be in place, and this is a funding statute so you'd want to, certainly, be consistent with those requirements.
Chairman Riggs. Well, not only do we want compliance, but we want quality, but I want to come back to that. And I also specifically would solicit your suggestions in writing to the committee as to what sort of standards or requirements would be imposed on LEA's over and above, or in contradiction to current law, if that decision was made locally and when I say by the LEA, what I really mean are the locally-elected decision makers, like Ms. Montero, a member of the Denver Public School Board.
Mr. Stone, do you agree with the approach, States, or at the option of the States, LEA's or should the decision be made at the local level?
Mr. Stone. Generally I would say that the decision should be made at the local level because they are closest to the circumstances of the students in that area. But one caveat to that is that you have to have some sort of accountability at a higher level than just the local level because you need to be able to check whether local areas are doing a good job of educating their students or not. So I would say decisions should be made at the local level because they are closest to the problem, but that there needs to be accountability on a higher level.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Superintendent Trujillo, I think I know your opinion, since I think you mentioned it in the course of your testimony, but would you like to respond?
Mr. Trujillo. In a way I want to amplify what Mr. Stone is saying. The State of Texas has, what I consider, one of the best accountability systems in terms of academic achievement for its children. At the same time, although I'm not sure that the State legislature really thought of the two simultaneously, we have a very strong site-based decision making law in the State of Texas. Now, we've had accountability systems up the gazoo in this country and public education, and an accountability system by itself is cruel and it's going to be subverted, because unless you have local authority and resources, people resent being held accountable for something they have no control over.
On the other hand, and I think this is your question, I think it's too simple. You can have local systems, site-based decision making systems, but if you don't have an accountability system, you have chaos and, possibly, even, abuse of authority.
The two must come together. One of the reasons that we've had the success that we've had in our school district, I believe, if I could simplify it, is that we're one of the few school districts that has been able to put the two together correctly. And that is an accountability system, and it's not perfect, incidentally. Our accountability system is good at the kindergarten through the eighth grade. We are wrestling because I don't believe that we have a good accountability system in our high school area and we looking at, for example, end-of-course examinations in every course because you can give local control, but if you don't have that accountability, I'm amplifying what Mr. Stone is saying, then you're going to have only half of what you really ought to have.
So, I would counsel you against giving authority to the local LEA's unless you can define what results you expect for them to achieve.
And I think the testimony you have been hearing today is primarily because there is no clear nexus between the two right now in many people's minds. In a good person, a good conscientious person, certainly the two things are going to work, but, you know, the question of local control, again, as I was saying to Mr. Littlejohn, you know, I love States' rights, if you can guarantee me that a Ross Barnett, a George Wallace, or, you know a Faubus, is not going to be elected to be governor of my State.
You know. We've had too many things, particularly for minorities, of abuses and I think you've had testimony of those abuses, at the local or at the State level, and that's why minorities have had to come to the Congress or the Supreme Court for redress of grievances or justice.
So, again, I guess my answer to the question is a little more complicated, a little bit of agreement with Mr. Stone--I'm always reluctant to agree with people who carry around labels like ``English Only'' or ``English First'' you know, because I'm not sure what the hidden agenda is, but in this particular case I think we can probably kind of forge a system of accountability and local discretion.
Chairman Riggs. I think that's fine. I don't think you need to impute a hidden agenda though, to your fellow panelists. I think they were very forthright and forthcoming in their comments.
I will point out, because two can play the same game, I just was struck that just yesterday the Attorney General for the State of California, excuse me, the Attorney General of your State, Texas, the Democratic Attorney General of Texas and the State's top Hispanic elected official, came out in opposition to remedial education and racial preferences in college admissions.
So, I'd be careful about applying pejorative labels to people and I really think we ought to live in the present day and look to the future.
Mr. Trujillo. Well, be careful of attributing virtue to people with Hispanic last names, then, necessarily.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Let me, just, in fact I'm going to give ample time, in fact I'm going to tell Lynn to tell off the light. You've waited patiently, so we're going to give you a chance to be heard.
I do want to go back to my home State, our home State of California, for a moment. In fact, let me just even interject before going to that point and telling you, Mr. Trujillo, that Congressman Martinez and I intend to move on a bipartisan basis a sense of Congress resolution, urging States and local communities, or local school districts, to address and to end the practice of social promotion.
So we do want more accountability, we do believe in higher standards and expectations of parents, teachers, and students alike--just hear me out before you respond. And the point I was going to make about California is that over the last year, the Democratically-controlled State legislature and the Republican governor agreed to implement standardized testing.
Now there has been a healthy debate, as there always is, when you talk about standardized testing as to which test or assessment to use. I think they are going to go, or have proposed going, anyway, with an off-the-shelf test. But what struck me, was that no sooner had they forged bipartisan consensus in Sacramento, then you had several school districts around the State, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in the State--you know where I'm going with this--well the largest in the country, basically say, we won't comply with State law. We won't administer the test because the test has to be administered in English and they want to be able to administer it in Spanish. And I'm wondering, going to your point, how do you get at accountability if we end up in a political standoff, you know, a stalemate, around those kind of issues.
Mr. Trujillo. Well, Mr. Riggs, let me first of all tell you that I spent 35 years of my 42-year career in California public schools, I was superintendent of Marin County, superintendent of San Diego County, and I'm well aware--and while I was superintendent there we tried to forge an accountability system with the Superintendent Hoenig that is very much like the one we have in Texas. Now there are a couple of features of that system: First of all, there is the overall accountability for all students, but there are subgroups, and, in this accountability system, minority groups, economically-disadvantaged children are desegregated. Hispanic children are desegregated. African-American children are desegregated. And there are people in my community who resent that. But my point is, that we're never going to get at the education of those children as long as we mask them in a larger cohort.
And, for example, in Austin, one of their best high schools, they scored super, but the African-American kids didn't do very well, and that school was designated as a poor-performing school. And the parents and everybody were very upset but, you see, until you desegregate that, you're never going to get at that. That's a very important feature in the accountability system so that it's not just a mass thing.
Now your question was how do you get in a political polarization. My experience is that the reason, in California, that one of the biggest problems in California, that California suffers from today, is a very highly-centralized policy-making system, namely the State legislature. After Proposition 13 everything moved to the State legislature.
And there are some real problems in California, and, you know, maybe in another conversation we could maybe discuss those.
I wanted to get back, however, to the term social promotion. Our governor has also launched a campaign and that's fine. Once I understand what he's really getting at, I have no quarrel with it. My problem, however, is that I have been in public schools over 42 years and I know my colleagues across this country and I have seen terms like social promotion, eliminating social promotion, used as hunting licenses on children. I think you have to be very careful in terms of the kinds of words that are emotionally charged, that are used in these things. Bilingual education is an emotionally charged word. English only is an emotionally-charged word. Social promotion is an emotionally-charged word. Tracking is an emotionally-charged word.
These things have to be stripped down to their essence before we can really get a good understanding of them. And I hate to use words or terms like social promotion, because somebody out there in some school district with powerless children, or powerless families, is going to use that to the detriment of children. I think we've seen that over and over again; I think that's why people like Mr. Martinez have a greater reliance in their own judgment at this level than at the local level. And I can sometimes sympathize with that.
I want local control, but I don't want it for him. You see what I'm saying?
Chairman Riggs. Oh, yes. I do. And thank you for your comments on that. It occurs to me that perhaps we could consult with you a little bit more on that question, because I don't want to get us off on that, but there is a widespread concern, this growing concern, that too many children are advanced from grade to grade, even graduated, as much on the basis of good behavior and--
Mr. Trujillo. Let me tell you the key to that, because there is a situation in Texas right now where MALDEF is suing the State, and I'm totally against that lawsuit, because high school kids are not passing the exit exam. I've been a very strong supporter of MALDEF; I talked to the MALDEF lawyer and I said you've got the wrong problem, you're doing it the wrong way. You need to hold the institution accountable for the graduation rate. The institution. If you don't hold the institution accountable--these youngsters, they're saying, we're going to do away with this accountability system because too many Hispanic kids are not graduating from high school.
Fine, get the institution to take some accountability as to why those youngsters are not graduating from high school. He said, well what do you suggest? I said I would even go so far as to say if I can't graduate a kid from high school, take the money that I used up to try to educate him away from me.
Now, you're going to start seeing some reaction. The problem we've had with the accountability systems is that they have been overly heavy on holding the child or the parent accountable, and not heavy enough on holding the organization, the institution, the district accountable.
And I would say that's the thing you have to do with social promotion. Before you say stop promoting kids automatically, what is that institution doing that is causing failure in youngsters not succeeding.
Chairman Riggs. Should we take that same approach with institutions, primary and secondary schools, that receive federal bilingual education funding?
Mr. Trujillo. I have no problem with accountability, you know, again, as long as it is clearly defined and as long as it makes good sense pedagogically and what we know about the learning process.
For example, now if you want to define bilingual education saying you need to learn English at a certain level. Fine, define it; make sure you have the proper resources. Make sure you have given plenty of latitude and support to that system, so that they can accomplish that goal, you know. But I don't think it serves any purpose to say all kids will learn English in two years. That's not a good accountability system. Do you see what I'm saying? I think it has to be much more specific, much more refined.
Mr. Boulet. Can I reply too?
Chairman Riggs. Absolutely. Mr. Boulet, I want to give you a chance to answer that question, then, yes, by all means.
Mr. Boulet. Actually, sir, when I was listening to the accountability discussion I was mindful that a few years ago welfare reform was being discussed here. They said there was no way people are going to find--well, lo and behold, a deadline was set up and people complied.
And, your bill is very good. I recommend two perfecting amendments. The first, and some of this has come out in the discussion from Mr. Littlejohn, it is very important to realize most school districts are trapped by consent decrees, illegally forced upon them by the Office of Civil Rights between 1975 and 1979, based on the so-called Lau remedies. It's all in my written testimony, and it's boring, so I won't go further than that, but as long as the consent decrees are in place, we can pass laws against bilingual education all day long and it doesn't matter.
The second thing that really has to be done is to get OCR out of this business. And by that I mean, if you had a restaurant where people weren't coming, the food was terrible, and you said, okay, this isn't working, you wouldn't repaint the restaurant and change the menu and keep the same cooks. And OCR is a hotbed of bilingual education as the only method to logically correct the way to way to do anything, and as long as those people are in charge, I would recommend--and you address this by saying education has always been a local matter? Let us use local education agencies--and, if in El Paso they want to require to everyone to learn only in Spanish, well that's El Paso's business. And I suspect that if a local education agency isn't doing the job, we're not exactly short of lawyers to get them to do it. So this is a very different world than it was in 1967 when bilingual education was passed.
Chairman Riggs. Absolutely, or you end up with a Ms. Montero, who takes her fight all the way to the school board election and ends up, if you will, on the other side of the table.
But let me ask you this, since you raised it, if we voided these consent decrees, do you believe that the schools would modify their current method of instruction to include other practices?
Mr. Boulet. It would give them the--when this issue has come up I've said the first people who are going to be opposed are the school boards association and the school principals because they've learned to learn with a given regime. But at least if we eliminate the consent decrees--for Ms. Montero, instead of having to go before a judge to say let's try to do it a different way, and allowing local people to apply what's--because people forget that when bilingual education was proposed in 1967, as one of its advocates said in my formal, written testimony, we've as little knowledge of this as we did on landing man on the moon.
But it was made mandatory in 1974; it was imposed on everybody. You had Peter Roos telling Walter Mondale that, we don't care what the evidence says, we know that a child learns best in his own language. So, we're not dealing with agnosticism on the other side here. But if we open the door, at least the parents of Los Angeles County Unified School District wouldn't have had to boycott the school system to get their children taught English which is what created the initiative.
People forget this is entirely Latino driven. The parents of the kids know better. They see the kid coming home not speaking English. There is a mother in New York, with twin children, one was put in the bilingual program because she was shy, the other was in the all-English program because she was not. If Grandma speaks Spanish in the home, all of a sudden you are in a bilingual program. The program is just wildly out of control and we really need to start, as your bill does, from a different perspective.
Chairman Riggs. Well, let me, and this is my last question and I'll go back from you back down the panel and return to Mr. Martinez. I'll be devil's advocate for a moment and pose the hypothetical: If we block granted the funding to the States and we let the locals decide the instruction method that they deem most appropriate for their students, what sort of quality standards and what kind of accountability system should be put in place, and who would make that decision? Should we attempt to write that into Federal law or should we look to States? Since we're proposing to block grant the funding to the States, should we look to the States to do that? Start with you, Mr. Boulet.
Mr. Boulet. I would look toward the States, and Linda Chavez, I think, identified why. And that is, that once you try to set a standard here, then we go through this all over again. Let the States sort of try some experiments here. Some communities are going to be different from others, and what Iowa is going to do might be different from what California is going to do. The important proof of the pudding is going to be in looking at things like graduation rates and English language competency, and my strong recommendation would be that, while leaving it up the States--Congress has written very carefully Title VII to mandate bilingual education--to write carefully to show that the goal of this program is to teach English, not to see how well you can take a phonics test in Laotian, not how well you can do chemistry in Mandarin, but how well you perform in English. Because these immigrant children need that; they deserve it.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Superintendent Trujillo, do you want to add anything.
Mr. Trujillo. At this point I just want to think a little bit before I react.
Chairman Riggs. Okay, that's fine. We very much welcome your ideas. Mr. Stone?
Mr. Stone. I would say that the standards--it is such a difficult question because the national debate goes back and forth between national standards and local accountability. I would say that very general standards need to be set at some point by the Federal Government that States need to comply with, but the States should then be able to form their own plans for testing and for complying with the standards.
Basically, in this case, what we are looking for is English fluency. That is what we are trying to produce in students. We want students to be able to know enough English that they can perform in regular English classes, because when they, you know, end up going to college, most college classes are not offered in multiple languages, and so the students need to learn to use English well enough that they can get by without bilingual assistance at some point and so that's where, I think, the general standard has to be made. That, some way to determine the level of English competency and I think that there has to be some sort of, if not a time limit, at least a goal because, frankly, unless you set some sort of time frame on it, nothing is ever going to happen because, you know, if you don't have a goal in mind, it will take as long as--it will expand to take all the time available.
So, I would leave a great deal of discretion to the States, but I think that there has to be some sort of guideline for them in establishing standards.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. Mr. Littlejohn, I'd like your response and then I'll ask at the end of your response, explain to us further why you used the term coercion with respect to OCR's action.
Mr. Littlejohn. I'd be happy to do that. I also believe that the primary accountability system should be at the State level with some Federal expectations, more in terms of results expected rather than process, and then some language in the bill that would keep some sort of bureaucracy from developing around this process to define that process. That's generally what happens when you don't define it, then the Federal employees don't know what you mean or think you don't know what you mean, so they begin to sort of add on to the original language different steps that will make them be able to monitor something more carefully, so it is a very difficult job to do that, but I definitely lean toward the States being involved.
That's where, you know, the heart of our education system lies, at the State and local level, and it's time for the States to step forward, you know, and take that responsibility even though we may not like what they do sometimes, I mean, that is their responsibility to do it and I think that's where you go with that.
With regard to coerced, I do explain that in more detail in my longer testimony for the Committee, but it is simply the fact that OCR goes in and does investigation, or goes through a process of gathering substantial data, and then basically finds a school district in noncompliance of the civil rights laws based on certain standards that they have developed and applied over the years. And if the school--the school has a choice basically of disagreeing with those findings, which involves a very long administrative hearing process, it is very expensive, it brings the school system very bad publicity, in 99.9 out of 100, the school system simply will try to, you know, send an agreement to OCR, give them an agreement that they think will meet their expectations.
At that point, all kinds of negotiations take place, depending on the complexity where, in some cases, OCR may, in fact, almost dictate what that agreement is.
Now it may be sometimes that what OCR wants and what the school wants to do line up together fairly well. In other cases, as in the Denver case that was mentioned here, those expectations don't line up well, but most school districts aren't like Denver. They don't have the resources, so they end up saying, okay, fine, we'll do bilingual education K-12, we think transitional would be better, but you say K-12 is better, we'll do that.
Okay, fine, we'll develop a curriculum in Navajo. You're telling us to do that, we don't have any materials, we don't have any teachers who speak the language very well, but we'll do it because you want us to do it.
And that's what I mean by coerced. Yes, they are voluntary agreements in the lingo of the OCR, but, in fact, they are not.
Chairman Riggs. Okay. And what specific provision or provisions of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act gives the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education the authority to proceed against these school districts?
Mr. Littlejohn. Well the Civil Rights Act itself really doesn't spell out in any detail what OCR may or may not do. In 1970, the old Department of HEW, we all remember that Department, issued a guideline which set out some broad requirements: schools must take affirmative steps to open the instructional programs for students who don't speak English, and that guideline then was part of the review process the Supreme Court looked at in the Lau V. Nichols case and following the Lau V. Nichols case which really was a decision that, yes, it is reasonable to ask schools to take affirmative steps, but didn't say what they should be. From that point, we got into the Lau remedies and very prescriptive guidelines, you know, during the 1970's, that OCR followed. Those were suspended during the 1980's. I think they are coming back into place now through practice where, you know, there is no language in the law that spells these things out.
The courts have been very general about what schools should do, and I think it gets down to--sometimes even interpretations from one OCR regional office to another are different because one office might push bilingual more and another office, you know, might push ESL a little more. So you get differences there. These are very discretionary and really need to be taken a look at.
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Mr. Littlejohn. That was very helpful and we also solicit your suggestions with respect to the State standards for bilingual education.
Mr. Littlejohn. I would be happy to present those to you.
Chairman Riggs. All right. Congressman Martinez.
Mr. Martinez. I am going to be very brief for two reasons. For one reason my wife is on the phone saying when are you going to get home.
And the other is because I think we are beating this thing to death. I want to ask one question to you, Mr. Trujillo, because Congressman Reyes, who is your congressman in your district, has talked very highly of you and he told us a lot about the work you do. And he wanted to be here to introduce you but his schedule didn't permit it. But he did want to have you respond to Dr. Lopez's remarks about the study he did that shows there are no long-term benefit to bilingual education, or from bilingual education.
Mr. Trujillo. Well, let me respond this way. One of the biggest detriments to the advancement, particularly of certain categories of students--and let me say that the term minority, language minority, Hispanic, African American--is that the schools of education for the last 70-80 years have been engaged in a lot of research and that research showed that African-American children, Hispanic children, and poor children, did not do as well in school as their counterparts. True.
Now here is the thing that is the most dangerous, insidious of everything. That research was taken and misapplied and the issue was that these were causes of poor performance because you were African-American, or because you were Hispanic, or because you were poor, or because you came from a single-parent family, or because--that's why you didn't learn. That's why you didn't achieve.
And I'm always very concerned when a piece of research comes out where there is a variable that is a variable like bilingual education. We looked at kids who were in bilingual education classes versus kids who were not in bilingual education classes and these were the results and, then, from those results, somebody jumps to the conclusion, for their own purposes, and says, bilingual education caused either a deficiency or the advancement.
Very dangerous kind of research because people misapply that kind of stuff and we have been trying to undo, and in my district that's one of the reasons we'd had the success, we have undone this type of learning. And I can tell you case after case where I went into schools. These kids can't do A, B, or C.
Their kids were, meaning Hispanic kids? Poor kids? Kids from the wrong side of the freeway? And this was built into the mentality of the teachers of the institution, the principals, and even the parents, and even the kids themselves, so that you got predictable results.
And so, Dr. Lopez's study, I was very uncomfortable with that because it took a single variable, that the committee consideration said, these are the results of bilingual and nonbilingual programs. There is no evidence that that is the cause of that result.
Maybe Congressman Riggs would appreciate this one. If we did some research in the Bay Area of California, and we said, let's look at the success of youngsters who went to Stanford University versus youngsters who went to San Jose State. And we are going to find that youngsters who went to Stanford University probably are doing much better than those who went to San Jose State.
The conclusion, then, by some people would say, aha! Stanford University has a better program, educational program than San Jose State. Without dealing with the notion that maybe more--that Stanford University recruits a class from a higher academic level from high schools than does San Jose State; that Stanford University is much more exclusive in terms of the economic cohort that they take in; and that it may be a lot of the kids who go to Stanford are doing well because their parents left them megabucks to do well with.
So, you see, it's a very dangerous kind of research if it's misapplied. And, in a debate like this, there are people who jump and say, aha! You see bilingual education is the cause of these people not doing as well in life's work.
The truth of the matter is that the person who is in the bilingual classroom or an immersion classroom, ESL or whatever, already has some common characteristics. They are immigrant, probably poor, you know, other kinds of characteristics that we can say those have as much to do with this outcome over here as this one single variable.
You do you understand what I'm saying?
Mr. Martinez. Absolutely. Mr. Stone, did you use the word perform just a little bit earlier?
Mr. Stone. Did I use the word perform?
Mr. Martinez. Yes.
Mr. Stone. I may have.
Mr. Martinez. No, I thought you said preform, but this time you did say perform.
Mr. Stone. Are you trying to say that my English is incorrect, and, therefore, I should be banned?
Mr. Martinez. Exactly. You see, and you, Mr. Boulet, say, how well do they--
Mr. Boulet. Oh, for goodness sake. Well, my English is terrible. I'm sure yours is much bet--
Mr. Martinez. Yes, you said how well--
Mr. Boulet. But we're communicating in English.
Mr. Martinez. But how well you preform in English, and that's what you said. And it's perform. But let me tell you something. Perform what? Perform what in English? Academic? Or just talk? I mean, the problem here is that you don't seem to understand, and a couple of you don't understand, is that it is not sufficient just to learn English. I can take any kid and teach him playground English so that he can communicate with all of the kids in the playground who speak English, who don't speak any other language, in probably just a couple of days. And he can get by.
I can take you to any country that speaks Spanish and teach you how to get by with a few phrases you can learn in a couple of days. But is that going to teach you to be able to understand the academic subjects you need? And how you need to succeed in those?
It doesn't. And, like Mr. Trujillo referred to, everybody learns at a different pace, and there's all kinds of different pedagogies for learning and for teaching and you have to even link those even to people who just speak English so that they might be able to learn efficiently.
Mr. Boulet. Since you asked me a question, may I keep you from your wife's dinner just a little bit longer here.
Mr. Martinez. About two minutes.
Me. Boulet. Okay. You've asked a very good question, you've said, you know, what are we trying to do here? And it's fascinating. If you look at the academic literature, they've now said--in California, they are saying it's harder to learn a language when you're a child, you have to be an adult. That is Stephen Crashen's statement, as well, you must have all native language instruction for the first seven or eight years of your life. That's not true, we all know this. Why do we know this? Because there are programs for English-speaking kids where they are put in all-immersion, they pick up things fairly quickly. There are two examples.
If you and I went to Berlitz, well I would have to go, and say I'd like to learn Spanish. I ask how long would it take you. And they said three weeks. The Defense Language Institute in Monterey. I'd say how long would it take you to teach me Spanish. Oh, about five weeks. And then I hear bilingual education advocates say it takes a kindergartner seven years to learn enough English to say ball and map and whatever. And we've got to give subject matter tests in the foreign language, and let's not forget that every subject has its own technical terminology to the point that, and I'll close here because I won't be mean, but there was a lawsuit filed in California. A Hispanic man said he was not properly read his Miranda rights in Spanish. So, they said let's look into this. They asked other States, how do you do it. And it was like five or six States replied, and they had the translation and they were all different. Now the States could not even agree how to translate ``You have the right to remain silent'' into English.
I would dare them to translate trigonometry into English because I didn't think it was in English when I took it, but try to translate that into different subjects. Every subject has technical terminology. One Spanish word I'm familiar with is conjuto, I'm mispronouncing it so I'm illiterate in two languages, but that is used to refer to set or ensemble, but that does mean the same thing. If you are learning math, you first learn all the terminology in Spanish, Laotian, Tagalog, whatever. Then you have to retranslate it when you are taught it again. Is it any wonder these kids are bombing achievement tests when they are given in English? They are having to learn the subject matter twice.
Mr. Martinez. I'm afraid I don't buy into your argument at all and it's irrelevant to what we're trying to talk about here.
Mr. Boulet. Education is irrelevant, Congressman?
Mr. Martinez. We need to get away from that subject because it is not going to do any good. Like I said earlier I don't talk to walls. They don't have minds, so they don't think, and I'm not going to convince a wall of anything. But, more than that, earlier somebody referred to the kid that spoke Cantonese. Well, let me tell you something, if that kid were in Taiwan, that kid would be at a tremendous disadvantage and they are forcing them to learn Mandarin because Mandarin is the national language. And you talk about people who are disoriented and disadvantaged. All of those people who are indigenous to the island of Taiwan, which was Formosa to begin with, they were taken over by the National Chinese when they moved from Communist China, when they were forced out by the Communists in China, then imposed Mandarin on that community which had several different languages, Taiwanese, as well as Cantonese and another dialect of Chinese.
Now at least those people are making sure that every single one of those people that do not speak Mandarin are instructed in school to learn Mandarin and learn all of the subject matter in their own language translated to Mandarin so that they can now speak the national language, Mandarin.
Can we do the same thing? I think so.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Riggs. Thank you, Congressman Martinez. I want to thank our witnesses. I do want to point out that the research section of the bill would permit the Secretary of Education, through OERI, to conduct research for the purpose of improving English language instruction among children and youth who are English-language learners, a new term that we are trying to put out there, and immigrant children and youth.
However it would restrict such research to identifying successful models of teaching children English and distributing information or disseminating information to the State and local educational agencies and, lastly, would prohibit the Department from focusing on any one method of instruction in their research.
I just want to close by saying, I believe we are going to move forward on this legislation for those who are interested parties present today. I believe that the current Federal bilingual education program in law, is in need of reform and our legislation will continue as we refine an improvement with, I hope, the suggestions and continued input of our witnesses.
The legislation will focus on providing parents the right to choose whether or not their children participate in education programs conducted in their child's native language, allowing States and local government to choose the types of English language instruction provided to limited English proficient children.
And, lastly, then is where Congressman Martinez thinks--I just think we agree to disagree--helping limited English proficient children learn English as soon as possible to enable them to achieve the same level of academic success in the core academic subjects as their English-speaking peers.
Gentlemen, again, I want to thank you for being here with us so late into the day. We very much appreciate your testimony. We thank our audience for their interest and attendance. And with that, the subcommittee stands in adjournment.
[Whereupon at 6:54 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]