Number of students:

* Statewide, 81,758 received bilingual-education services during the 1997-98 school year, according to the state Department of Education. Those students generated about $35.6 million in state money to provide bilingual services.

* In Albuquerque Public Schools last year, 24,663 received bilingual-education services. Those students generated $12.3 million from the state, APS officials say.

State Constitution:Unlike most states, New Mexico’s Constitution includes provisions that ensure myriad rights for Spanish-speaking people:

* Article XII, Section 8, says the Legislature should shall “provide for the training of teachers . . . so that they may become proficient in both the English and Spanish languages, to qualify them to teach Spanish-speaking pupils and students . . . “

* Article XII, Section 10, says children of Spanish descent “shall never be denied the right and privilege of admission and attendance in the public schools . . . and they shall never be classed in separate schools, but shall forever enjoy perfect equality with other children in all public schools . . . “

Trouble brewing:A group of Albuquerque parents has a federal lawsuit pending against APS alleging state law has led to bilingual-education programs that illegally segregate students on the basis of national origin. Specifically, the parents contend that APS:

* Funnels Hispanic-named children into bilingual classes, even if they are English-speaking.

* Falsely labels many Anglo students as Hispanic to get more state bilingual funding.

* Illegally places Hispanic, “limited-English-proficient” students in predominantly segregated bilingual-education programs that fail to teach them English.

Can California’s bilingual-education ban happen here?

“Bilingual programs, for the most part, are delivered in a regular classroom setting,” said Mary Jean Haberman, director of bilingual/multicultural education for the state Department of Education. “It’s part of the main curriculum. We’re not denying students something they should not be receiving. It’s difficult to look at the context of what’s happening in California and apply it to our state where the constitution says it’s important.”

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