HOLYOKE ? Mayor Michael J. Sullivan yesterday endorsed the English for The Children initiative that would abolish bilingual education.
“I’ve looked at how students have done in Arizona and California. If you look at the statistics, it’s like a no-brainer. There is no reason why people shouldn’t be supportive of moving as quickly as possible to English immersion,” Sullivan said.
Voters will make their own choice about how they think second-language learners should be educated when the English for Children initiative appears on the Nov. 5 ballot. It is very similar to a proposition passed in California several years ago.
If passed, the initiative would require all students with limited proficiency in English to be taught in a “sheltered English immersion” program where all subjects are taught almost entirely in English. That program is expected to last one year, but more time is allowed when needed, according to literature from the campaign.
Yesterday, Sullivan, who serves as the chairman of the School Committee, School Committee Vice Chairman Patrick J. Shaughnessy and Committee member Michael J. Moriarty endorsed the proposal at a meeting with English for Children Massachusetts Chairman Lincoln J. Tamayo at Dean Technical High School.
Superintendent Eduardo B. Carballo, who did not attend the meeting, said he does not endorse the ballot initiative, although he favors use of structured English immersion.
Holyoke Public Schools now have 1,550 students enrolled in transitional bilingual education in which academic subjects are taught in Spanish and students are taught English. More than 70 percent of the city’s 7,200 public school students are Latino.
The Holyoke schools have two English immersion pilot programs, one for kindergarten students at Kelly School and one for kindergartners and first-graders at Sullivan School.
Carballo said he is waiting for the results of those pilot programs before proposing any changes to how the system educates second-language learners.
The city is under the constraints of its amended desegregation plan, approved by a U.S. District Court judge a year ago, which requires the schools to follow a bilingual education program detailed in an agreement reached after a group of Hispanics filed suits against the city in 1979.
Tamayo said he was delighted that Mayor Sullivan has come out in favor of the English for the Children initiative. The only other public official who has endorsed it is Jim Rappaport, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.
“It’s rare for a leader like him to show courage and stand up for what’s right,” Tamayo said.
Sullivan said he believes Hispanics need to learn English in order to survive economically.
“I think it’s the best thing for the city of Holyoke. It would make sure one of the largest segments of my community would get the best chance for an economically successful and fruitful life,” Sullivan said.