Appointee Has Dim View Of Bilingual Idea

After 27 years in education, Garden Grove school administrator Cipriano Castillo is adamant about two things: that tight budgets hurt schools and bilingual education is “baloney.”

Getting more money for schools, he said, is a job for the state Legislature. So Castillo, known as “Cip” to his friends, has concentrated on the second item.

“There’s plenty of evidence to show bilingual education is not working,” Castillo said. “When bilingual education first came out, I was a supporter. I
said: ‘It can work, especially in its purest form.’ But now, it’s just a bunch of baloney.”

Now Castillo, the principal of Ethel M. Evans Elementary School, will have a national forum for expressing his views.

Will Attend Meetings

Castillo, 51, has been named by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett to the National Advisory and Coordinating Council on Bilingual Education. The panel, which advises local governments and confers with the department’s Office of Bilingual and Minority Language Affairs, replaces the National Advisory Council on Bilingual Education, whose congressional mandate expired recently.

The Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees is expected to approve Castillo’s selection today when it addresses the issue of approving days off to attend meetings in Washington, D.C.

Not surprisingly, Castillo’s views on bilingual education have raised eyebrows, particularly in the Latino community. During talks before Orange County groups Castillo, a Mexican-American, has been called a “Tio Taco” — the Spanish equivalent of an “Uncle Tom” — by fellow Latinos who disagree with his point of view.

Castillo’s selection and that of others who also oppose bilingual education has stirred the interest of Latino members of Congress and supporters of bilingual education in Washington who are upset with what they see as a plan by Bennett to appoint opponents of bilingual education.

Castillo said the council’s new members include both supporters and opponents of bilingual education who will make budget recommendations for the next two years.

However, Castillo said the problem with bilingual education, at least in California, is that many educators are unwilling to admit that the programs do not work. He accused state legislators and several pro-bilingual education teacher groups of pushing through “unworkable and unrealistic” rules and regulations.

‘System Doesn’t Work’

“These groups that originally recommended bilingual education had a motive in mind,” he said. “It was to get people hired. And now that they are hired, who is hurting? They’re not willing to back off although the system doesn’t work.”

He pointed to the high dropout rate for Latino high school students. “If you want more Latino youths to succeed, they need a mastery of English. There are other factors like the family and cultural factors as well. But language also plays a part. Latino schoolchildren are leaving the school system without the basics to go out and earn a living,” Castillo said.

He said a nationwide bilingual teacher shortage of more than 157,000 has also plagued the system. “Consequently, the system doesn’t work. Where are you going to get these teachers from?”

Instead, more attention should be given to increasing English “immersion” programs such as English as a second language, he said. Castillo said his belief is based on “many years” of observing bilingual classroom instruction — in which students are allowed to develop their English language skills while learning in their native language.

Castillo, who is a Republican, said he was selected for the panel because of his participation with English Language Advocates in Orange County. The group includes parents, educators and school board members who promote English usage although Castillo said he has mixed emotions about supporting an English-only constitutional amendment.

Favors ‘Immersion’

“I do favor that people retain their language and culture,” he said. “It is definitely an advantage. But because of limited funding and shortages of qualified teachers, I am in favor of English immersion.”

Castillo attended New Mexico Western University where he received a degree in education. He received a master’s degree in school administration from California State University, Fullerton.

He joined the Garden Grove school district as a teacher. Four years later he entered school administration and has been an elementary school principal for 23 years in the district.

He and his wife, Estella, and their six children live in Huntington Beach.

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